Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
Tupelo FD awarded FEMA grant
By William Moore
TUPELO – Friday the 13th was not bad luck for the Tupelo Fire Department, as the department was notified it would receive a long-awaited Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
The $72,749 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow the city to install advanced source capture exhaust systems at six fire stations to reduce the harmful effects of diesel exhaust fumes.
“To tell the truth, I had forgotten we had applied,” said Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker. “I started applying for this grant decades ago when I was deputy chief. We have continued applying every year but never heard back.”
The grant, along with a 10 percent match from the city, will pay for the exhaust fans at Tupelo’s six older fire stations. Fire Station 4 near the mall is the city’s newest and already has one of the systems, that not only captures and diverts exhaust from fire engines but also treats the fumes.
The system consists of a large roof mounted fan and hoses that can be attached to the exhaust pipes of the fire trucks while they are parked in the bays. If the truck has to leave on a call, the system is designed to disconnect as the truck pulls away. A cable system then retracts the hose up and out of the way.
“This means we will be able to check the trucks inside the bay without polluting everything,” said Deputy Chief Jimmy Avery. “We store the turnouts and gear out in the bay. Right now, if you crank the truck, the turnouts and everything else absorb all those diesel fumes.”
Fire departments regularly crank and check the operating systems of the truck. Rather than pull the truck out in cold or inclement weather, the truck normally remains in the bay.
“Preparedness is the foundation for effective emergency and crisis response. These FEMA grants will help ensure local emergency responders can work in a safe environment and be ready to assist the public,” U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said announcing the grant.
The newer fire stations have roll up doors on both ends to allow for cross ventilation. But the older stations only have a 36-inch door and windows to help disperse the fumes, Walker said.
“With the new system, you can run the truck in the bay out of the weather and not affect anyone,” Avery said. “There are filters in the system so the exhaust is much cleaner going into the atmosphere.”
While the federal money has been approved, Walker will not move forward until he has the check in hand. It could take another three months to bid the project, followed by installation at six stations.
“As soon as we get the money, we will jump on this,” Walker said. “I already have the matching funds in our capital budget for the coming fiscal year.”
The exhaust systems were not required on new construction until 2005. Around the turn of the century, there was a push to remove cancer-causing carcinogens from the workplace.
While Walker and Avery would have preferred to have the systems installed years ago, the delay did help make the project more cost-effective.
“When we first started looking at these systems almost 20 years ago, the cost was almost $100,000 per station,” Walker said. “Now the price is less than $15,000 per station.”