Since 2004 the Purdy Fire Department has received over $780,000 in grants to purchase necessary equipment for firefighters.
This year, the Purdy Fire Protection District, which was established in 2007, has been awarded $6,000 from the Volunteer Firefighters Assistance Grant Program, $10,000 from the Chaney Foundation, and $56,000 from the USDA Rural Development program, for a total of $72,000.
"When we first started applying [for grants], we were with the City of Purdy and operating on a budget of $20,000 per year," said Fire Chief Mike Redshaw. "The budget was comprised of rural dues, whatever the city could contribute to the operation and whatever funds we could achieve through annual fundraisers, like the barbecue we used to host.
"Of that $20,000, we were lucky to have $5,000 to spend on equipment," Redshaw continued. "That's not much when you consider a new set of protective gear for a firefighter is upward of $1,400 and a SCBA [self contained breathing apparatus] is upward of $5,000. Even radios are expensive, coming in at around $750 for the last ones we bought."
With the modest budget that the city and rural dues provided, it was a struggle for the department to acquire needed equipment to maintain safe operations.
"When I took over as chief, we were wearing bunker gear that was 10 years old," Redshaw said. "Most of it was worn and frayed and beyond safe for operating within a fire. It was okay for what we were able to do at the time."
Then volunteers with formal training started to join the department, enabling crews to attack fires from a burning structure's interior.
"That led to the need for new gear," Redshaw said. "We wre able to do that with our budget, but we had to overlook some other improvements we needed due to the priority of protecting personnel."
During that time, Redshaw made several attempts at getting the department a new truck.
"At that time, the best truck on the fleet was a 1975 pumper that had seen better days," Redshaw said. "It was underpowered and didn't have enough pump to handle larger fires.
"Then we were awarded our first Assistance to Firefighters grant, and we were able to purchase a pumper-tanker," he continued. "That is still one of our best trucks. It is equipped with a 2,500-gallon water tank and is able to pump 1,750 gallons per minute."
The same year, the Purdy Fire Department received six new SCBA units as well as a thermal imaging camera through a Department of Homeland Security equipment grant.
"The thermal imager alone has made a world of difference to our operations," Redshaw said. "We are able to see through smoke, walls and other materials to detect hidden fire. This single piece of equipment has saved thousands of dollars in unnecessary damage to homes."
In 2006, the department was able to upgrade bunker gear for firefighters and the remaining SCBA units, and in 2007 replaced the 1979 brush truck. The new quick attack truck can not only fight brush and grass fires but can act as a light rescue truck.
Barry County voters passed a tax in 2007 for the development of the Purdy Fire Protection District. The tax increased the annual operating budget from approximately $20,000 to $60,000.
"That dramatically increased our ability to upgrade our services and improve operations," Redshaw said.
Additional grants in 2008 and 2009 allowed for the purchase of 3,000 feet of two-inch hose, TurboDraft devices for drafting water from nearby water sources, additional inch- and-a-half hose for quick attack and new nozzles.
The department was able to purchase a compressed air foam system with grant funding in 2009. The device mixes compressed air, foam and water that firefighters spray on homes or businesses to protect them from the heat of a fire.
|"All along, our goal has been to get the equipment and||facilities we need to provide the best service possible to the Purdy area," Redshaw said. "We have recently completed a move to a larger building to help with storage of a larger fleet, and we are looking toward construction of a second station in the eastern portion of the district."|
The district takes in nearly 70 square miles of property which runs as far north as Highway BB/Farm Road 1040, south to Highway HH, west to just past Highway 97 and east to just past Highway C and VV.
Currently, the department has 25 personnel. Fourteen of those have Firefighter I and II training, eight are emergency medical technicians, three are paramedics, and one is a registered nurse. Personnel are trained in various disciplines, such as vehicle rescue, rope rescue, farm machinery rescue and fire/arson investigation.
An open house for the Purdy Fire Protection District is being planned for October. Further information on that event will be released at a later date.