You can always accomplish more when you work together.
The Midlothian and Waxahachie fire departments will share a $160,000 federal grant to purchase new air packs for both departments.
The announcement was made last week by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Rep. Joe Barton, (R-Ennis) through the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Grants and Training as part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
The funds will be used to purchase air packs that are compatible with the ten fire departments of the Ellis Dallas Unified Cooperation Team. Waxahachie and Midlothian are the only departments whose air packs are not uniform with the other departments.
Midlothian Fire Chief David Schrodt appeared before the Midlothian City Council last week seeking approval to act as the primary agency for the grant. The federal dollars will cover 80 percent of the cost and Midlothian and Waxahachie will put up the other 20 percent.
"Waxahachie will get 24 air pacts Midlothian will get 16," said Schrodt. "They cost about $5,000 each and our part will be about $1,000 each.
"The federal government likes it when communities combine needs in seeking grants," he added. "Firemen are used to working together at any kind of emergency and it's good to work together to obtain this grant."
The grant was written by the Midlothian Fire Department with input from Waxahachie. The money will be given to Midlothian and the purchasing will be handled by this department.
Midlothian Deputy Chief Dale McCaskill said Midlothian and Waxahachie have air packs whose valve and nozzle at the bottom of each air tank are not compatible with air tanks used by other departments in the area.
"That can present a problem when we get in a situation where firefighters are going through air bottles quickly," said McCaskill. "Also, in the event one of our firefighters somehow got pinned and we couldn't swap him an air bottle, it could be disastrous."
McCaskill said the department will now get a hard price from the company and the transaction should be complete by the end of February.
"We will get the equipment before then and have 30 after we get a bill to get the federal money paid," said McCaskill. "Our guys are already familiar with this equipment, but we will have a formal training session and then load them on the trucks."
The 10 departments in the Ellis Dallas Unified Cooperation Team (EDUCT) are: Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Ferris, Glen Heights, Lancaster, Midlothian, Ovilla, Red Oak and Waxahachie.
The Office of Grants and Training, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, partners with state and local officials to strengthen the capabilities of first responders in addressing emergencies and catastrophic incidents. The program provides a broad array of assistance to America's emergency responders through funding, coordinated training, exercises, equipment acquisition, and technical assistance.
"This funding will help make sure first responders at the Midlothian Fire Department have the resources necessary to keep the surrounding community safe," Sen. Cornyn said. "We have a responsibility to support those working on the front lines every day to protect families, homes and property."
Barton said the grant has specifically been designated for "Operations and Firefighter Safety," and will assist the Midlothian Fire Department in obtaining personal protective equipment, training, modifications to fire stations and facilities, as well as fitness and wellness initiatives for firefighters.
"The Midlothian Fire Department is on hand to protect the community in the face of disaster, and the Assistance to Firefighters grant will help them carry out this important task," Barton said. "I am pleased to announce they have received this funding, which will help them obtain tools and equipment to keep them safe. I want to thank each and every member of the Midlothian Fire Department for their service."
Hutchinson echoed Cornyn and Barton.
"These grants will provide our firefighters and first responders with the resources they need to save lives," Sen. Hutchison said. "This funding will help these brave men and women better prepare for and respond to emergency situations in our communities."
Hutchinson pointed out a total of 12 Texas communities will receive federal funds under this grant with the amount going to municipal and volunteer fire departments totaling $1,184,243.