HOWARDVILLE - Until recently state and federal officials didn't even know Howardville had a fire department. Today, the department not only has official recognition, it has received a grant for $14,323 in the eighth round of awards under the Assistance to Firefighters Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., announced this week.
Clennon Farr, the former fire chief and now the community's mayor, said earlier this year he began researching why their insurance rates were higher than neighboring communities. "I started digging deep and found out they thought we didn't have a fire department. We've had a fire department for 30 years but nobody knew it. I found out what we had to do and now we are registered."
That was several months ago. Then working with Joe Lane of the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission the community applied for grant funds to purchase a fire truck to replace their current truck which was purchased used several years ago and for additional equipment.
Lane explained his organization sought the funding for Howardville, which is a member of the BRPC, after learning of the community's needs from the mayor and of the availability of grant funds. The money from FEMA is to be used to purchase personal protective equipment with the city to match the grant with $1,592 in local money.
When the funds arrive Lane said the firefighting equipment slated for purchase will include fire bags, coats, pants, helmets, fire hoods, suspenders, boots, helmet lights and other items used by firefighters.
"Last year, 102 firefighters died in the line of duty," said FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh. "Personal protective equipment is critical in reducing firefighter deaths and injuries." The Howardville department is made up of 10 volunteers led by Fire Chief Charles Rowe.
The department currently is looking for more individuals to assist in their fire fighting efforts, said T.C. Collins, Howardville police chief and volunteer fireman. Those who would like to volunteer can come to city hall where forms are available. Once the forms are completed, the volunteer's background is reviewed and they are issued pagers and numbers. It is then up to the volunteers to respond to fires when alerted.
"It is strictly volunteer ... there is no pay," said Collins. "Right now, there are some days we don't know if we can go fight a fire or not.
"But we are looking forward to getting the new equipment and making improvements. Our main thing is to get our (insurance) rates down and to provide better fire protection services."
Howardville is among 88 fire departments across the United States to receive the award The total assistance provided to date has reached $62.3 million nationally. FEMA will distribute $100 million in grants through Sept. 30. Authorized last year by Congress, the grants reach rural, urban and suburban fire departments.
Grant applications are being processed by the U.S. Fire Administration and reviewed by representatives from seven fire service organizations. In each case, the federal grants are supplemented by local funds.
"President Bush and I are pleased grants in this category will help fire departments buy this important lifesaving gear," Allbaugh said.