New federal grant allows Roanoke County Fire and Rescue to upgrade air packs

The $860K grant will help replace outdated breathing apparatuses.

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke County Fire and Rescue is planning for a big upgrade. The department has just received $860,000 to keep firefighters safer out on calls.

"It's right there with water and hose, it's one of the things you can't do without," said Michael Dunn, a paramedic firefighter.

Self-contained breathing apparatuses, or air packs, are essential for firefighters. And now nearly $1 million is making it way to Roanoke County Fire and Rescue for much needed air-pack upgrades.

"After 15 years, we had to replace them. We were coming up to a drop dead date where we had to do something. This grant came in at a perfect time," said Stephen Simon, chief of Roanoke County Fire and Rescue. 

Worn out packs can mean life or death for firefighters, not only do they provide constant air, they have low air alarms that let firefighters know it's time to get out.

One-hundred-thirty air packs will be purchased thanks to the FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant. That's 130 upgrades that will ensure firefighters can protect others and themselves.

"The main thing is, when you're in a fire, to not have to think about your pack working, it just works and you can worry about your job," said Dunn. 

The new air packs will be purchased within the next year, a little something to look forward to at Roanoke County Fire and Rescue.

The chief said the department applies for these types of grants to take some of the pressure off Roanoke County and the Board of Supervisors.