Grant benefits city’s fire department |

Grant benefits city’s fire department

Firefighter, paramedic and grant writer Leslie Asbury joins Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti and other firefighters in accepting a check for $37,105 from the Fireman's Fund Heritage program. Also pictured are Kaylan Harris, David Soulsby, Ted Long, David Jenkins and Bill Kolstad.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company recently awarded a grant of $37,105 to aid the struggling South Lake Tahoe Fire Department. The grant will fully fund 41 new sets of special wildland firefighting personal protective gear.

David Soulsby, a business insurance underwriter from Sacramento, teamed up with Leslie Asbury, a South Tahoe paramedic firefighter, to write a grant application to buy the fire suits that are designed specifically for wild fire work.

South Shore insurance agent, Bill Kolstad, recommended their application by noting that the equipment would “protect the individual at risk on the front line working to protect, not just our own community, but those as far away as San Diego, under mutual aid response agreements.”

“What better way for an insurance organization to support both the local community and those who protect us,” Kolstad said.

Kolstad was first on scene to a brush fire in the lower Kingsbury area two years ago and was keenly sympathetic to the need for the unique clothing needed for fighting wild land fires as opposed to more urban structure fires.

“The firefighter needs to wear this to be protected personally, so it’s not something you can just keep on the truck. One size doesn’t fit all firefighters,” Kolstad said.

The city of South Lake Tahoe was highly visible in the news from the late June Angora fire that consumed more than 250 homes bordering the national forest.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company’s corporate philanthropy program, Firemen’s Fund Heritage, has surpassed the $10 million milestone since its inception in 2004. The initiative is the company’s nationwide commitment to provide needed equipment, training, and community education programs to fire departments and other fire service organizations.

Fireman’s Fund employees and its network of independent agents work together to identify needs at local fire departments. Grants are issued, in part, to fill the voids left by growing budget cuts. Donations average $20,000, but can range from $5,000 to more than $100,000. Fireman’s Fund Heritage grants have helped departments across the country purchase thousands of pieces of new equipment.

“This is a program that saves lives,” said Joseph Beneducci, president and chief executive officer. “A week after we purchased new vehicle extrication equipment for the department in Hahira, Ga., firefighters responded to a serious crash where they used the tools to save trapped victims.”

Additionally, the company has supported national fire service programs by providing the matching funds for the International Association of Fire Chiefs-led “National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System,” the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s “Everyone Goes Home” campaign and the National Volunteer Fire Council’s “Heart Healthy Initiative.”

“Fire Departments across the country are being asked to do more and more with less and less funding,” said Billy Goldfeder, a nationally-recognized fire service instructor and leader who is deputy chief of the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio and co-founder of “Fireman’s Fund Heritage is enabling departments to purchase needed equipment and training they might otherwise not be able to afford, and it’s having a true impact on communities nationwide.”

The 4,200 employees of Fireman’s Fund also spend thousands of additional hours volunteering in the community and helping support fire service initiatives. Fireman’s Fund’s commitment to the fire service stems back to 1863, when the company was founded with a mission to donate a percentage of its profits to the fire service. This commitment was renewed in 2004 with the launch of the Fireman’s Fund Heritage program.

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