Grant money improves safety
AHOSKIE – When it comes to fighting a fire, “cooler heads” have to prevail.
And now, thanks to a $5,000 grant, that will hold true for members of the Ahoskie Rural Volunteer Fire Department.
The grant, awarded by Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina (IIANC) and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, enabled the department to purchase new helmets.
Ahoskie Rural Volunteer Fire Department officials, firefighters, and executives from Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina (IIANC) and Fireman’s Fund came together at the department’s fire station on Tuesday afternoon for a special public event where the check presentation took place.
Ahoskie firefighters have not been able to replace their helmets for more than 15 years. These outdated helmets have left firefighters with an increased risk of injury from impact and burns to the head, face and neck.
“The free money with non-matching funds was a great benefit to us because it didn’t cost us anything and it allows us to operate the fire department to a higher standard without having to burden the taxpayers and citizens of our fire district,” said ARVFD Fire Chief George Bradley.
The department learned of the availability of the grant funds through local insurance company Boyette and Robertson co-owner Walt Pierce.
The grant is part of a nationwide philanthropic program funded by Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Through the program, grants are awarded to fire service organizations for life-saving equipment, firefighter training and community education programs.
“I received an e-mail about it and I called Robert Earl (Brinkley, an ARVFD Board member) and I took them the information and told them what had to be done,” said Pierce at the check presentation.
“Mike Bradley (VFD President) then filled out the paperwork and I just got it into the proper hands,” continued Pierce, who along with Brinkley helped jump-start the process.
“Later one of the girls in our office received another e-mail that said we had been awarded the grant,” he concluded.
Thanks to this grant, the department will be able to purchase new helmets, which will comply with safety standards while keeping firefighters safe.
“This grant enables us to satisfy our most basic mission: saving lives. In terms of personal protection, a firefighter’s safety is only as reliable as his or her safety gear,” said Bradley. “We truly appreciate these new helmets thanks to IIANC and Fireman’s Fund.”
“I’d actually forgot about it until the girls called from the insurance company,” recalled Bradley with a laugh. “It was a great benefit, and a surprise, but also greatly appreciated.”
Since 2004, Fireman’s Fund has awarded grants to more than 1,900 different organizations totaling more than $30 million – including more than $480,000 in North Carolina alone.
“It’s essential our firefighters have the best equipment available to them,” said Kelley Erstine, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina located in Cary, and also on hand for Tuesday’s check presentation.
“With limited budgets, fire departments are often prevented from purchasing the equipment they need,” he added. “We’re proud to be able to support the community in such a meaningful way.”
“The helmets we had had about a ten-year life span and they’re about $280 apiece,” said Bradley. “With 43 firemen, $280 is a lot of money per man so the 17 new helmets is a big help.”
The Ahoskie Rural Volunteer Fire Department serves a five-mile district outside the city limits of Ahoskie which encompasses some 5,200 citizens.
“We have very few fund-raisers,” said Brinkley. “We’re in a tax district so there isn’t a need for (fund-raisers) and what we have has worked very well.”
Independent insurance agencies and brokers that sell Fireman’s Fund products, like Independent Agents of North Carolina (IIANC), are able to direct these grants to support the fire service.
Through this program, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. has directed $135,000 in grants to fire departments nationwide.