Dorchester County Fire-Rescue has been awarded $826,804 in grant funding from FEMA. The funding enables the county-wide fire department to hire more firefighters, get new equipment and fund some of the department’s healthcare costs.
“$ 800,000 is a lot for our budget and it’s something that we couldn’t do without the help of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) or the SAFA (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant,” said Chief Tres Atkinson.
The AFG grant will be used to install diesel capture exhaust systems at six fire stations in the county. The systems hook up to firetrucks when parked inside a fire station and reduce the risk of cancer for firefighters, who are at a 9-percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer compared to the general population.
The funding also pays for full medical evaluations and behavioral wellness health visits for firefighters.
“We do a job and see a lot of bad things so we want people to be mentally aware of what’s going on,” said Chief Atkinson.
The SAFA grant enabled the county fire department to hire three new full-time firefighters at the St. George fire station.
Chief Atkinson said the county fire department is honored to have been awarded the grants and says it will increase the level of service they provide to the residents.
“It certainly makes our responses better, makes our people better and it’s better for the citizens we serve.”