CLINTON — The Clinton Fire Department is breaking in some new equipment recently purchased with an Assistance to Firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Association.

The fire department has applied for FEMA grants for several years and has received a grant three out of the last four. Grant funds can be used to obtain personal protective equipment, gear, training and vehicles. The new equipment was purchased with a 2004 grant for personal protective equipment.

“We chose personal protective equipment because we feel protecting out firefighters is one of our highest priorities,” Fire Chief Mark Regenwether said.

The federal grant of more than $110,000 allowed the fire department to purchase personal protective gear including new coats and pants personally fitted for each of the 44 firefighters. The city paid a share of $12,000 to match 10 percent of the federal grant. Regenwether thanked the city for its commitment to help the fire department protect the community.

“They’ve been really good about finding the money to make that match,” said Regenwether.

Training Chief Andrew McGovern echoed the statement saying, “To the city and county’s credit they have seen that the fire department has the equipment they need for every possible emergency.”

Regenwether said the new gear is among the best for fire protection and meets new, higher standards for flame resistance.

“It’s going to give our folks the best protection available that meets all the newest standards,” said Regenwether. “The better equipped our firefighters are, the better we can protect our community.” All of the older gear has been kept in reserve in case the need arises for a back-up.

The fire department also purchased a new safety system that will allow department officials to have better communication and accountability of firefighters. The Personal Alert Safety System, slightly larger than a brief case, is left on the truck and is monitored by the person in charge of the scene.

The computer system keeps track of the signal receivers firefighters have attached to their coats, which are specifically programmed. Each firefighter has received his or her own signal receiver handset. At the scene of a fire, the case shows officials the names of everyone who is there.

What’s more, if a firefighter is overcome by smoke or exhaustion and they become inactive for more than 30 seconds or activate the emergency button, the handset will send a signal back to the case telling officials that the firefighter is in trouble. Both the handset and the case will put out a blaring, high-pitched alarm noise, with the case notifying officials outside that there is a problem and the individual handset allowing for easier tracking in low visibility situations. McGovern said the system allows for better communication and better accountability of the firefighters.

“We can immediately check on them if there is an alarm,” McGovern said. “It puts their name at the top of the list.”

Another important feature of the system allows for better communication in an evacuation situation. The case can send out a different alarm noise if a department official calls for a full evacuation. The case sends the signal to each handset in use and each firefighter knows to get out and check in with department officials outside.

Once firefighters are outside, they can hit the buttons to signal they are safe. The case also can tell which handsets have received the signal and if one hasn’t, officials know who has gotten out and who hasn’t. Regenwether said in the event a large fire should break out, officials would be better able to keep track of the firefighters on scene.

“We can get a faster confirmation that everyone is out without a visual confirmation,” McGovern added. McGovern said training with the system is now going on and the department is finalizing protocol before the system goes into use.

The fire department is hoping for additional funding from the city to purchase more handset devices in the event assistance would be needed by other area fire departments.

Another important purchase made possible because of the grant is a new washer and cabinet dryer for each of Clinton’s three fire stations. The washer has a higher capacity and is front-loading for easier access. The previous washing machine was smaller and wasn’t commercial grade so it was tough on the protective gear and the machine.

The new machine also allows for proper cleaning of the gear as it is an extractor and strips the pants and coats of any contaminants. Regenwether said he is happy to have the new machines at each station.

“This will hopefully extend the life of the gear and offer much better protection,” said Regenwether.

McGovern said the new purchases were part of a four-year program to bring equipment up to higher standards.

“We bought everything with the idea that in five years we wouldn’t have to buy more gear,” McGovern said.

“We wanted to meet our present needs and be prepared for what’s coming down the road,” Regenwether said.

The Clinton Fire Department is currently awaiting word on a federal grant applied for in 2005. Leaders are looking to purchase new electrical generators and extrication equipment. Regenwether said he is anticipating receiving a grant, but doesn’t know when or how much.

Fire department officials are now in the process of reassessing current and future needs to apply for grants for 2006.