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Grant Will Help Local Firefighters Breathe A Little Easier
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By Jeff Edwards, Patch Staff
March 28, 2022

GOLDEN'S BRIDGE, NY — A $50,000 grant carved out with assistance from State Senator Peter Harckham will be used to help keep local first responders and those they are charged with protecting safe.

When fire, medical, storm-related and other 9-1-1 emergencies are sounded in its fire district – which includes Golden's Bridge and small swaths of Somers and North Salem – the Golden's Bridge Fire Department is almost always first on the scene. Now, a New York State legislator is answering the call of Golden's Bridge firefighters.

Harckham presented a $50,000 grant to the Golden's Bridge Fire Department. The funds are being used toward the purchase of 25 new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) devices. The compressed-air breathing device worn by firefighters provides breathable air in "immediately-dangerous-to-life-or health" environments, including atmospheres with oxygen deficiency, smoke, hazardous gases, and other airborne contaminants.

"It is critically important that our firefighters and first-responders have updated equipment to do their jobs as safely as possible," Harckham said presenting the grant. "The Goldens Bridge Fire Department serves a mix of business and residential areas, so department personnel need to be prepared for a full range of fire and non-fire emergencies. I know the new breathing apparatuses will benefit both firefighters and residents in this regard and am pleased to have helped gain this funding for the community while alleviating some of the financial burden on the town's taxpayers."
New breathing apparatus being modeled by a Golden's Bridge firefighter. (Golden's Bridge Fire Department)

The GBFD also purchased 50 new breathable air cylinders to pair each SCBA device with two cylinders. Designed and manufactured by Scott Safety (now part of 3M Scott Fire & Safety), the Scott Air-Pak is one of the industry's premiere Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus that meets the National Fire Protection Association Standard 1981 – which establishes the minimum respiratory protection and functional requirements for SCBA used by emergency services personnel.
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Golden's Bridge firefighters undergo a high level of training in the proficient use of SCBA devices. Properly securing the apparatus with speed and precision, and implementing various actions in simulated emergency response situations while wearing the device are part of the training drills.

Edward Brancati, a Fire Commissioner and Chairman of the five-member Board of Fire Commissioners of the Golden's Bridge Fire District, said that the District and Fire Department are grateful for the $50,000 state grant secured by Sen. Harckham and for his support of emergency first-responders. The grant, he noted, helps to defray the $200,000 cost of the new 25 SCBA devices and 50 breathable air cylinders that replace the older, expiring devices, whose shelf-life is approximately 15 years.

"As a Fire District, we are always trying to strike a balance between fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of the community we serve, and the safety needs of Golden's Bridge Firefighters," Brancati said. "This grant has enabled us to achieve both."

Fire Commissioner Robert Melillo, who teamed up with 2nd Assistant Fire Chief James McManus on the grant application process and worked with Sen. Harckham's office, said the Fire District had a five-year plan during which it budgeted for the new SCBA devices in anticipation of taking the older, expiring devices out of service — but that the Board of Fire Commissioners was grateful to be able to secure some level of state grant funding to meet some of the cost. Commissioner Melillo, who is also a 32-year firefighter with the GBFD, said the new SCBA devices have a lifetime warranty on mechanical failure.

"Golden's Bridge firefighters respond to fires, chemical spills, and other emergencies that, in addition to fire and smoke, involve airborne toxins and vapors in tight, enclosed interior space and in the immediate outdoor atmosphere," GBFD Chief Albert Melillo explained. "The respiratory system can be quickly compromised, with one breath of an airborne contaminant potentially being the difference between life and death. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus is one of the most essential pieces of personal protective gear for Firefighters. It provides the highest level of protection that enables us to operate in any environment that poses an immediate danger to life and health."

Chief Melillo said that every seat on all Golden's Bridge fire trucks, as well as the emergency response vehicles of the Fire Chief and 1st and 2nd Assistant Fire Chiefs, are equipped with Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.

"We thank Sen. Harckham for his efforts in helping to keep Golden's Bridge Firefighters safe so that we can respond to residents and businesses in their time of need," Chief Melillo said. "The Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus enables Firefighters to go deeper into a burning structure to perform rescue and firefighting functions."


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