This annual program began in 2012 and provides much-needed gear to volunteer fire departments in the U.S. and Canada. In 2019, MSA, DuPont, and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) awarded 13 departments with four new sets of state-of-the-art turnouts each to help them increase the safety of their firefighters. The first 500 applicants also received a complimentary membership to the NVFC, courtesy of MSA.
Awards in the 4th quarter were made to the following departments:
- Witt Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD) in Illinois is comprised of 35 members and five explorers who respond to more than 225 calls per year over 142 miles of rural service area. The department serves 3,520 residents 24 hours a day on a volunteer basis. Volunteers have been relying primarily on gear that the department received 18 years ago, and it is showing signs of thermal breakdown and aging, which puts responders at risk. With an annual budget of $24,000, WVFD’s budget ranks in the bottom two percent of the state. The local government is operating on a month-to-month basis, and it cannot be counted on for monetary assistance.
- Canal Fulton Fire Department (CFFD) in Ohio has struggled to equip its firefighters with NFPA-compliant turnout gear. The department is currently comprised of 49 active firefighters; of these, 22 are borrowing coats, 22 are borrowing turnout pants, 26 are borrowing a pair of boots, and 25 are borrowing helmets from neighboring departments. As a volunteer department, CFFD has found it difficult to find the funding to purchase adequate turnout gear. This impacts the safety of their members as well as creates issues during the recruitment process.
- Stella Rural Fire Department in Rocky Comfort, Missouri is comprised of 39 volunteers who serve a population of 3,800 over 132 square miles. The department relies on an annual fundraiser, which typically provides half of its annual budget, as its primary source of funding. However, the money raised is not enough to adequately update equipment. Most of the volunteers use old gear donated by career departments in the area, and some volunteers don’t have any gear at all.
- Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill Volunteer Fire Department in Sylva, North Carolina responds to a wide array of incidents, including wildland fires, structure fires, search and rescues, and medical calls. In addition to serving its own area, the department provides mutual aid to four other departments serving almost 19,000 people. With a limited budget, the department has had difficulty raising funds to update its turnout gear, all of which is over 10 years old and thus not up to NFPA standards.
- Rutland Volunteer Fire Company in Black River, New York has experienced an increase in call volume of about 15 percent over the past few years. Calls are mostly comprised of motor vehicle accidents and structure fires. However, less than half of the department’s firefighters are outfitted with fully compliant gear. Since safety is a top priority in the department, this means many volunteers are relegated to support tasks which don’t require full protection while only minimal personnel are able to work the “hot zone” of a scene. Department members work hard to fundraise, but with all of the operational demands they also have, the volunteers aren’t able to raise enough to purchase the amount of gear needed to fully outfit each member with compliant gear.
- Utica Volunteer Fire Department in Mississippi serves a population of 4,687 people over 75 square miles. They run an average of 375 calls per year despite operating on a shoestring budget that barely covers the necessities of daily operations such as fuel, preventative maintenance, and equipment repairs. A jump in membership over the past four years has tripled the number of active volunteers to 27, but the department has to make do with only 11 sets of gear, six of which are older than 10 years and thus not NFPA compliant. In addition, fewer than 10 members have boots that fit correctly, and many members’ boots are cracked or worn out.
- Rocky Creek Volunteer Fire Department in Burton, Texas covers a 46-square-mile district in Washington County along with 18 square miles of lake and 622 square miles of mutual aid. The department is an area leader in both wildland firefighting as well as in wide area search and rescue. The department does not receive tax funding and so relies on fundraisers to assist with operational costs. All of its structural PPE has been passed down from paid fire departments, and all are more than 10 years old. In addition, volunteers are currently using brush apparatus for structural firefighting due to a lack of funding and a mechanical failure in its structural engine.
For more than 100 years, MSA has been dedicated to protecting those who protect us, so when there are first responders in need – we are proud to be able to help.