Butterfield Fire Department gets $151,200 grant

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Funds will help department purchase new safety equipment

The Butterfield Volunteer Fire Department was recently the recipient of a federal grant in the amount of $151,200, which it plans to use to replace its aging equipment.

"It's called the Assistance to Firefighters grant, and was initiated by Homeland Security after 911," said Butterfield Fire Chief Tommy Ray. "The grant will help our budget out a lot. Instead of having to stretch to purchase a small amount of gear, we can use that money to go toward other equipment we desperately need, too."

Ray said the last time the department received a grant of this size and magnitude was in 2006 or 2007, when the department bought a truck.

"That was for $200,000," he said. "The last one we received was in 2008, but not that much, around $50,000."

The request for the grant was written in 2014 by Barry County Emergency Management Director Dave Compton.

"He's written several grants for fire departments over the years," Ray said. "He's connected with all the fire departments and helps us get our trainings."

According to Ray, the current operating budget of $55,000 per year does not begin to come close to purchasing the equipment needed to fight fires and keep firefighters safe. The only other option the department has is to purchase equipment a little at a time. But, then it would have been cycled through and the department would have to start all over again.

"With our budget being so small, it's hard to purchase the equipment other than one piece at a time," Ray said. "We don't have the money to do that anyway."

Ray has been with the Butterfield Fire Department since 1998 and comes from a generation of firefighters.

"My Dad was one of the founding members who helped start the department in 1980."

Butterfield Deputy Chief Scott Brophy, who has been with the department for three years, agreed the annual budget is not adequate to purchase necessary safety equipment.

"The annual budget of $55,000 may sound like a lot, but it's not for a fire department," he said. "That goes to cover fuel for the trucks, tires, maintenance, pumps, payment on the building, utilities, sewer, Internet, etc., and we try to replace some of the equipment that we can. We do budgets every September. I only get $1,500 for my training budget."

There are other significant expenses, too.

"Insurance is our biggest thing, and worker's compensation, that is the most expensive," Ray said.

Ray said the department can apply for grants every year but there's no guarantee they will be awarded.

"It's just a process you go through," he said. "People from somewhere like Kansas or New York will read your request, then evaluate it and determine if it's worthy enough of being awarded.

"For the grant, we put in [a request] for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCVAs), air tanks you carry on your back when you go into a fire. That and bunker gear like insulated coats, helmets, gloves and boots that protects firefighters from the heat. Equipment has a shelf life of 10 years and our stuff turned 10 years old this year. The National Fire Protection Association guidelines (NFPA), recommends replacing equipment every 10 years."

The grant supplies 95 percent of the funds to purchase the equipment requested, $144,000 in this case, and the fire department must come up with 5 percent, $7,200 in this case.

"We're going to use some contingency money to cover the rest, money we have allocated just in case something was to happen," Ray said.

The Butterfield Fire Department answers approximately 100 calls per year.

"Every fire department has its own boundaries, but we also help respond to calls in the surrounding areas of Wheaton, Jenkins, Exeter, Cassville and Purdy," Ray said.

"Once you get approved for the money, it takes a month or two for it to show up," Brophy said. "We go out and get all these quotes. It's a long, tedious process. Some of [the equipment] is still safe to use, but has until the end of this year. So, we have to use what we have."

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