DEVENS -- The Devens Fire Department welcomed the arrival of $200,000 worth of equipment April 23, compliments of another federal grant that Rep. Niki Tsongas is credited with supporting.
Tsongas received a lesson in the new equipment -- 21 sets of "personal proper equipment" suits -- from Chief Joseph LeBlanc at the Devens Fire Station. The equipment cost $210,667 and was partially funded with a $200,134 federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
MassDevelopment CEO Marty Jones said they are thrilled that the equipment came in.
"Obviously it wouldn't be without the good help and support of Congresswoman Tsongas," she said.
But Tsongas said the hard work was all theirs, noting that the department competed against many other fire departments across the country for badly needed funds.
"I give you tremendous credit that your grant application rose to the top," she said.
The federal government has to be an engaged partner in helping supply these resources, she said.
"With the anniversary of the marathon bombing, as well as the tragic loss of lives of two firemen in Boston, we're reminded really of how our first responders and our firefighters really do put themselves in harm's way at a moment's notice," she said.
"As fire departments identify needs and seek grant opportunities, we're always there to be supportive," Tsongas said. "So what this $200,000 does is, one, it helps upgrade their equipment, but it also frees up money that they can then put into other aspects of whatever they may need. And that's what we seek to do with all the communities as they identify their needs, to be a partner with them."
Tsongas said it was great to have a fire department that was able to compete and receive these funds.
"As I'm in Washington, I'm going to make sure that this program stays in place and is adequately funded to meet the needs of our communities," she said.
The equipment is the second piece of federal support MassDevelopment received this week, after the U.S. Economic Development Agency announced a $1.85 million federal grant for the final phase of the Jackson Road reconstruction.
The costly fire equipment for firefighters has to be renewed every 10 years. Each of the 21 sets contain gloves, a helmet, a face mask, a breathing apparatus and boots -- one each for the 21 people on the squad.
LeBlanc said the department can respond to anywhere from 200 to 600 calls a year, and they also provide assistance to nearby towns. The department had been looking to receive the grant for one to one and a half years, as their equipment is about to expire.
"It's not an overnight process," he said.