Bigelow Fire & Rescue receives AgStar grant
BIGELOW -- A pair of firefighting boots can cost a hundred dollars or more, and a helmet more than $200.
Firefighting foam, depending on what kind of fire it's designed to smother, can cost from $50 to more than $200 for a 5-gallon pail.
Even the suspenders used to hold up a firefighter's pants are approximately $20 a pair.
Firefighting isn't cheap, and the equipment used to protect firefighters is essential. Toss in today's electronics and radios, and it is no wonder small town fire and rescue departments are fighting more than flames to survive.
According to Bigelow Assistant Fire Chief Javier Jimenez, some of the department's pagers were so old the dispatches weren't coming through, which means some of the 14 members of the fire and rescue department weren't being notified when their services were needed.
A $2,500 grant from AgStar Financial Services is helping to remedy the problem. The grant will fund four new pagers, which cost between $500 to $600 dollars each.
Jimenez said he is grateful to AgStar for the grant.
"Big ticket items are hard to fund," he said. "We can't just purchase them out of pocket."
The citizens and the city of Bigelow are supportive of the fire department, but it's hard to buy new equipment with money raised at local fundraisers. Those funds are generally used for items such as foam, gloves (firefighters go through them rather quickly at times) and other consumables.
"We get good support, and we're really fortunate to have such a nice fire hall," he added.
Jimenez said the Bigelow fire department applied for the grant online this summer.
The AgStar Fund for Rural America recently announced $99,919 in grants through its Emergency Medical Services Grant Program.
Since the fund's inception in 2001, AgStar has awarded approximately $340,000 to fire departments, ambulance teams and rescue squads in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
According to John Monson, chairman of AgStar's Fund Board of Trustees, rural communities are being asked to do more with less, even when it comes to emergency services.
"Many deserving volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance departments are struggling, often making due with outdated communications equipment and gear that compromises the safety of their crews," he stated. "That's why we at AgStar felt compelled to do more. This is just our way of thanking and supporting people who serve and protect all of us who live and work in rural communities."
Marilyn Anderson, a senior financial services officer for AgStar, was at the fire hall Wednesday with a giant check for the Bigelow Fire and Rescue Department.
She was surprised to find out just how expensive the pagers can be.
"We're glad we can help," she said.