HARRELLS — The Harrells Volunteer Fire Department has received a nearly $8,000 state grant that will assist in paying for much-needed turnout gear.
Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin announced that the Harrells Volunteer Fire Department Inc. was awarded a $7,837.50 grant through the 2015 Volunteer Fire Department Fund from the State of North Carolina.
“We’re buying some protective gear — helmets, pads, boots,” said Chief George McGill. “After 10 years, even though some of the gear still looks OK, the powers that be say we have to replace it. We’re looking at probably $2,000 per person as far as the cost.”
And every dime is well worth it when considering the 100-150 calls the 47-member volunteer department annually responds to each year. The check, with matching funds, will total about $16,000 and outfit eight firefighters with brand new life-saving equipment.
“When you’re running into a house on fire,” the chief said, “you need that gear.”
The grant check was mailed to McGill to be used by the department to purchase the needed equipment. Purchases with the matching funds must be approved by the Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal. McGill confirmed Friday the check was in hand, having been received earlier in the week.
As chief in Harrells, he has received many of those checks over the years and seen his department improve as a result.
The General Assembly created the Volunteer Fire Department Fund in 1988 to help volunteer units raise money for equipment and supplies. The grant funds must be matched dollar-for-dollar for an amount approved up to $30,000, unless the department receives less than $50,000 per year from municipal and county funding, in which case the applicant shall match $1 for each $3 of grant funds up to $30,000.
Since the program’s inception, the Department of Insurance has distributed well over $104 million to volunteer fire departments across the state.
McGill, the chief of the Harrells department for the past 49 years, said the matching grant funds have been a great benefit to the small southern Sampson unit that is responsible for a large expanse in the lower half of the county.
“It really has been a benefit to us,” McGill remarked. “Any department that doesn’t take advantage of this funding is really missing out. I think a majority of department do receive some.”
The Harrells Volunteer Fire Department has received a total of $123,751.82 from the Volunteer Fire Department Fund in the 27 years since the program began. In previous years, that has meant new radio equipment, fire hoses, nozzles and gear — even sizable renovation projects.
“Last year, we were able to use it to renovate the building,” said McGill, who noted that in addition to the main station on Tomahawk Highway there is a satellite station, deemed 1-A, that is located in the Ivanhoe area. That location is usually manned by at least eight people. The total amount of space covered by Harrells fire personnel includes 97 square miles, or roughly 10 percent of the entire county, McGill stated.
“Fire and rescue organizations protect our communities large and small across North Carolina, but sometimes their budgets don’t grow with their responsibilities,” Goodwin stated. “Our emergency service personnel should be supported with the best equipment and supplies needed to do their jobs correctly and safely.”
“I know the Harrells Volunteer Fire Department will use this money to serve their community even better,” Goodwin continued. “Thank you, Chief George McGill, for all of your hard work and thanks to your dedicated staff.”
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