ENNIS — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officially began the process of awarding funds to fire departments statewide as part of its annual Assistance to Firefighter Grants program begins.

Ceremonies held at Fire Station 2 in Ennis saw the Telico Volunteer Fire Department receive a check for $204,250 designated for vehicle acquisition and the Ennis Fire Department receive a check for $62,814 designated for operations and safety.

“This ceremony marks the beginning of the disbursement period of the program and the fire departments in Ennis and Telico were the first to receive the awards. These are the only departments within the five surrounding counties to host this type of celebration,” said FEMA representative, Brad Cole.

To be eligible for the awards, both departments submitted a written application where they had to explain the need in their community for the grant money and what the money would be spent on. The size and make-up of the community was a factor in determining if the application was successful as well as a risk analysis of the community and the safety of the firefighters if the grant was not given to purchase the requested items.

“It is a very lengthy process of review where firefighters from across the nation get to decide which departments should get the funding. A group meets at the National Fire Academy in Maryland and reviews each application. It is fair and appropriate that a group of their peers determines the needs of each application submitted,” said Cole.

Josh Slovak, a member of the Ennis Fire Department and a volunteer at the Telico Fire Department pulled double duty to submit both applications for the grants.

“The process is quite involved. It probably took about 100 hours to finish each application and then an additional 40 hours for each to coordinate the disbursement. It was important to me and it will mean that both departments receive the funding needed to provide a higher quality of protection to the communities they serve and that the firefighters will have what they need to be safe in their duty,” Slovak said.

The Telico fire department will use the funds from the grant to purchase a new fire engine which will replace the existing 1975 model they currently use.

“This money will actually have two benefits for the community because as well as having a new engine, hopefully the updated equipment will also help lower the scoring system the insurance companies use to determine home owner’s insurance within the community,” Slovak said.

The Telico Volunteer Fire Department holds an annual barn dance fund-raiser the last weekend in September and would have had to save the proceeds from those for about 10 years to purchase the new truck.

The Ennis Fire Department will use its grant money to purchase a full set of protective clothing for each firefighter and a specialized machine that is used to clean the chemicals and smoke from a fire out of the suits, which will make them last longer.

Representatives from both Congressman Joe Barton’s and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s offices were also in attendance at the ceremony.