Federal funds help firefighters breathe easier | SierraSun.com

Federal funds help firefighters breathe easier

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunFirefighter Sarah Lagano loads a ladder onto a fire truck at the North Tahoe Fire Protection District Tahoe City station on Thursday. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District recently received a $173,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security for upgrades in exhaust expulsion systems.

North Tahoe firefighters will soon breathe cleaner air in five district stations from Kings Beach to Homewood.

As recipients of a grant from the Department of Homeland Security for $173,000, the North Tahoe Fire Protection District may now update the systems that rid engine exhaust from the department’s engine bays.

“[We’re] trying to bring our own taxes back into our district,” said Julie Osburn, firefighter and paramedic with North Tahoe fire.

Osburn writes the grant requests for the district.

Currently, the exhaust systems in the stations are outdated or incomplete, said Osburn. The federal grant, which will cover 95 percent of replacement costs, is earmarked for firefighter safety and will be used to reduce the health risks that chemicals in emissions pose to firefighters at the stations.

Research shows that cold diesel smoke in a confined space can be bad for health, said Dave Ruben, North Tahoe fire battalion chief.

The systems should be installed by next year, Ruben said.

The remaining 5 percent of the costs will be paid for by the district.

“Julie has been phenomenally successful in applying for grants and bringing money to the station,” said North Tahoe fire Chief Duane Whitelaw.

The district has successfully been awarded other grants this year, including for fuel reduction and wildfire protection projects. The state, federal and county governments have given money toward these programs.

“We’ve been very successful [this year],” Ruben said.

According to Whitelaw, a series of projects with an estimated combined cost of $5.7 million have been identified within the North Tahoe Fire District for community wildfire protection. The overall goal, Whitelaw said, is to make the entire Lake Tahoe Basin fire safe.

The district recently hired a full-time fuels coordinator, John Pickett, to begin working next February with the fuel reduction and defensible space projects.

North Tahoe Fire District has six fire stations, including an Alpine Meadows station to open next year. The other five stations are located in Kings Beach, Carnelian Bay, Dollar Hill, Tahoe City and Homewood.

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