By Sam Dietrich
No matter how late, early, cold, hot, dangerous, routine, or how asleep they are, when called, firefighters zoom out to help. A recent grant program is repaying the favor by helping the fire departments themselves.
Representatives from the N.C. Office of the State Fire Marshal (N.C. Department of Insurance) made the rounds to departments in Western North Carolina distributing grant monies. Departments received between $5,000 and $10,000 to ease the financial burden caused by COVID-19.
The grants were from the N.C. Rural Initiative Fund and the Department of Insurance COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant. Many of the departments have also been approved for, and will receive funding from, the 2022 Volunteer Fire Department Fund Grant, which is a 50/50 matching grant.
“The COVID money was something new this year,” Jackson County Fire Marshal Michael Forbis said. “It was a $10,000 grant that the fire departments could receive or some of the rescue squads could receive.”
There were two rounds of grants given to the fire departments and rescue squads:
Savannah Volunteer Fire Department, Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Cullowhee Volunteer Fire Department, Jackson County Rescue Squad, Canada Volunteer Fire Department, Qualla Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department and the Sylva Fire Department.
The Qualla Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department was given over $11,000; the Savannah Volunteer Fire Department was given a grant of over $27,000; the Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill Volunteer Fire Department got over $29,000 and the Canada Volunteer Fire Department was given $30,000. The Sylva and Savannah departments expressed how much it means to them to be given these grants.
“It’s definitely a big help,” said Floyd Green, chief of the Savannah Fire Department. “We are going to use the money we received for our trucks. Especially when the cost for equipment is going up.”
“We feel blessed as far as it goes with receiving the grant money,” said Mallary Caraway, district coordinator at the Sylva Fire Department. “We’ve had a lot of turnout gear and stuff go out of date, and other than the trucks, those are the most important pieces of equipment. We have to apply for grants to help us with the cost of that turnout gear every 10 years.”
“It’s all unbelievably expensive,” said Sylva Fire Chief Mike Beck. “We really do feel blessed being given this support.”
Sam Dietrich is an intern at The Sylva Herald.