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Little Rock FD gets big grant

Members of the Little Rock Fire Department pose with some of the grants they received from the Grand Falls Casino and Resort. The $125,000 grant they were recently awarded will be used toward a new pumper/tanker/grass rig. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

LITTLE ROCK, Iowa -- Before the first dirt was moved for the construction of the Grand Falls Casino and Resort near Larchwood, naysayers feared it would bring about the demise of the area. Communities and schools across Lyon County, however, have been beneficiaries of a share of the profits taken in by the business.

In Little Rock, population 462, the local Fire Department was recently told it was awarded a $125,000 competitive grant from the casino -- the funds are issued by the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation -- to help purchase a new fire truck.

The grant will cover about half of the cost of a new pumper/tanker/grass rig vehicle for the department, and firefighters met Monday night at the fire hall to discuss possible fundraisers to help cover the rest of the $250,000 price tag.

Kevin Wagenaar, a volunteer fireman and a grant writer for the department, said they may apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, take out a loan or allocate more money from the fire protection revenue they receive from local townships.

The $125,000 grant is the third grant in the last year and a half awarded to the Little Rock Fire Department. In the fall of 2011, Wagenaar said they received $18,000 from the casino to purchase new Jaws of Life equipment and a generator.

"In 2010, we had a tornado ... and the city of Little Rock was without power for a couple of days," Wagenaar explained. "We wanted to get a generator that would allow the fire hall to receive power. That way it could be used for an emergency shelter."

A second grant was awarded to the fire department in the spring of 2012 from the casino. This time, they were given $23,000, which was used to purchase new pagers, bunker gear for the firemen and speakers for the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

The new, $125,000 grant will be distributed to the department in $25,000 increments over the next two and a half years, as the casino makes grant disbursements every six months. That gives the department time to plan and carry out fundraisers in the community. In addition to the grant to the Little Rock Fire Department, the Larchwood Fire Department received a $500,000 grant to build a new fire station.

In the pre-casino days, Wagenaar said the Little Rock Fire Department had to try fundraisers and save up money from township allocations to be able to update equipment.

"Basically, we've had to continue to use what we've got," he said. "The Jaws of Life we replaced was over 30 years old -- it was very unreliable.

"The casino allows not just our fire department, but other fire departments and ambulance crews in Lyon County, to be able to purchase and update equipment that they normally would not be able to do," he added. "They're giving money back to the community, to small towns that don't have enough tax revenue to purchase (equipment).

"It means that we know that we are able to apply for things that we need for our fire department -- to update or replace equipment that we normally wouldn't be able to do."

The new fire truck they plan to purchase will replace a 1972 model that lives up to its nickname, Old Yeller.

"We've been having a lot of trouble keeping it in operating condition," Wagenaar said. "That's why we decided to get it replaced."

The truck will join a 1999 pumper --the last new vehicle the department purchased --as well as a tanker, grass rig and rescue vehicle maintained by the Little Rock Fire Department.

"We like to keep the best equipment possible to be called out to an emergency," Wagenaar said. "We want to be able to help out our county as well as other counties."

The 22 volunteer firefighters who make up the Little Rock Fire Department provide mutual aid to six other fire districts, including George, Rock Rapids and Sibley, Iowa, and Ellsworth, Adrian and Bigelow in Minnesota.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330