SIKESTON - Sikeston residents will be soon be a little bit safer thanks to a federal grant and matching funds which will purchase fire equipment.
The Sikeston Department of Public Safety will receive $112,950 from the Homeland Security Grant program to fund fire operations and firefighter safety. Sikeston DPS Director Drew Juden said the money, along with 10 percent matching funds from the city and funds donated earlier, will be used to purchase a thermal imaging camera and self-contained breathing apparatus.
In announcing the grant, Eighth District Representative Jo Ann Emerson said it would reduce death and injuries from fires.
"Our firefighters come from all walks of life and serve every segment of society," Emerson said. "However, many of those departments, especially those here in rural Missouri, operate on less than a shoe string budget and have needed new equipment and more training for a number of years. This much-needed funding will help Sikeston meet these needs, ultimately helping to reduce deaths and injuries in our nation's fire service community."
According to Juden, the Department has sought grant funding for the past three years but this is the first time it was awarded to the local group.
"We are tickled to death to get the grant and we look forward to getting the equipment," said Juden, adding it was a plus that the money will not be taken out of the general operation fund for the department for the needed equipment.
With the purchase of a thermal imaging camera, the DPS chief explained, fire personnel will be able to determine the location of a fire in a smoke-filled building. "Also it will enhance our capability to see people down in a residence or structure, who might be incapacitated from the smoke," he added.
The self-contained breathing apparatus, which Juden said the public typically calls oxygen tanks, will be used by personnel entering a fire scene. He estimated the current air packs are some 14-years-old and in need of replacement.
Although still waiting on the check from the government, Juden said officials will begin the bid process for the equipment. He estimated this could take from 60 to 90 days and hopes by that time the actual funds will arrive.
Also announcing the grant funds were Senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent. Both praised firefighters for their efforts to protect citizens and as first-responders in times of crisis.
Grants are awarded by the Department of Homeland Security across the nation. "One way the Department of Homeland Security is working to better protect the nation is by providing millions of dollars in direct support of the men and women who help protect our neighborhoods and communities," said Secretary Tom Ridge in the press release announcing the grant.