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Big Christmas Gift: New Fire Truck For Bingen

Volunteers get replacement thanks to FEMA grant

Thanks to a generous grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Bingen should soon have a new fire truck to go with its new fire station.

The city has been awarded a FEMA grant for $180,000 to go toward the cost of a new pumper truck.

Bingen will have to provide a $20,000 matching share to qualify for the grant.

The modern firefighting vehicle will be able to put 1,250 gallons of water a minute on a fire, and is also equipped to spray foam onto fires.

The truck would have a six-member cabin.

"It's quite a deal. We're pretty excited about it," said Bingen Fire Chief Louis Geschwint. "Bingen firemen will really appreciate being able to respond in a safe, sound apparatus. This will add to the safety of firefighters. Everything pertains to safety."

The city applied for the grant to buy the truck in April 2003.

In a letter dated Nov. 28, FEMA officials notified the city, in formal language, that the grant would be forthcoming.

"Congratulations. Your grant application submitted to the Emergency Preparedness & Response Directorate for the FY03 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program in the program area of Firefighting Vehicle has been approved. The approved project costs amount to $200,000. The federal share is 90 percent or $180,000 of the approved amount and your share of the cost is 10 percent or $20,000," read the letter, which was signed by Patricia English, senior procurement specialist for FEMA in Washington, D.C.

"The grant comes direct from the federal government to the city," explained Bingen City Clerk Jan Brending.

Currently, the newest vehicle in the Bingen Fire Department fleet -- a pumper -- was manufactured in 1977. All the other rigs, including a backup pumper, a tanker, and a brush truck for fighting grass fires were built in 1968 and 1969.

When it's delivered, the new pumper truck will replace a 1969-era pumper built by Ford that holds 750 gallons of water. The replacement vehicle will have a 1,000 gallon tank.

The Bingen Fire Department won "points" toward the grant based on the age of existing rigs, as well as the recognition that Bingen provides mutual aid for White Salmon and other fire districts in the mid-Columbia Gorge area. The fact that the fire district includes a large lumber mill (SDS), as well as an active highway and railroad line, helped the city make the case for grant funding for the department's new rig.

"The city's two engines (pumpers) were manufactured in 1977 and 1969," read an excerpt from Bingen's application for the grant. "Because of the vehicles' age, they are no longer dependable at all times. Even with proper care and maintenance, a catastrophic failure could occur at any time due to the age of the equipment. The maximum number of firefighters safely carried on the city's vehicles does not meet the requirements for the number of personnel needed on scene for safe operations."

Brending added that purchasing the new truck would not necessarily lead to the surplusing of any of the existing trucks.

"The [fire halls] bays are full, so we'd move one of the old trucks out to the city's Public Works shop," Brending said.

Geschwint estimated it would be about six months until the truck arrives for duty in Bingen.

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