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Area rural fire departments receive financial boost

REGIONAL — Select fire departments across southwest Minnesota will get a financial boost toward remaining active in saving lives and protecting property in rural Minnesota.  

Eight rural fire departments in communities of populations less than 10,000 in The Globe’s coverage area received Volunteer Fire Assistance Grants, administered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The 50-percent matching grants will provide the Rushmore, Wilmont, Mountain Lake, Lakefield, Slayton, Luverne, Woodstock and Walnut Grove fire departments some financial relief on smaller — but necessary — ticket items.

“(This grant) allows better funding so we can keep up-to-date with our equipment," Slayton Fire Chief Paul Louwagie said. “Otherwise it's hard for small towns to maintain modern equipment with our limited budgets.”

The Slayton Fire Department will put its $4,800 matching grant funding toward hoses, nozzles and turnout gear — the personal protective equipment worn by firefighters.

The Mountain Lake Fire Department will use its $5,000 grant in much the same way.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, turnout gear has a life expectancy of approximately 10 years. That can really add up considering the cost is typically between $2,000 to $2,500 a set, said Mountain Lake Fire Chief Tim Coners.

Ours was outdated and we’ve been trying to replace as much as we could,” Coners said. “This grant will help us get a few extra sets.”

Updated technology will be the focus for Rushmore Fire Department’s $1,200 grant.

Fire Chief Brent Peterson said the department will be able to replace its pagers, which are five years old and experiencing some battery issues.

“After a while you just need to update,” Peterson said.

Other grant amounts included Wilmont, $4,100; Lakefield, $2,500; Luverne, $5,000; Woodstock, $2,500; and Walnut Grove, $500.

The rural communities across the southwest region were among 159 rural fire departments statewide to receive funding based on the greatest need. According to the DNR website, additional consideration included the type of project, fire runs and number of previous years funded.