Homeland Security funds Fallen Leaf Lake Fire Department | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Homeland Security funds Fallen Leaf Lake Fire Department

William Ferchland

Fallen Leaf Lake Volunteer Fire Department will receive $87,156 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for new protective clothes and breathing apparatuses. Over the next several months, 8,000 grants worth nearly $750 million will be given to fire departments across the country.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security just made the community at Fallen Leaf Lake a little safer.

New protective wear and breathing apparatuses are expected to be purchased with $87,156 that was granted to the Fallen Leaf Lake Volunteer Fire Department by the federal government.

The gear will replace aging coats, pants, masks and other equipment donated from various South Shore fire departments. “It’s stuff we could never been able to afford otherwise,” said Chris Sauer, chief of the department.

Although $10,000 of the total amount had to come from the department, the grant is roughly three-quarters of the fire department’s annual budget, Sauer said. Fifteen sets of protective clothes, about $1,200 each, and 15 breathing masks, about $3,500 each, will be purchased, Sauer added.

About a decade ago, the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department donated 10-year-old jackets and other items to the Fallen Leaf Lake Volunteer Fire Department.

“They’re in pretty poor shape,” Sauer said.

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For the past couple of years, the department purchased one set of clothes. The 15 breathing apparatuses, which will replace those donated by Tahoe-Douglas Fire Department around 1990, will be distributed among the three fire engines, fire boat and chief’s vehicle.

“I think it’s fantastic. Chris has done so much to make our department as safe as possible,” said Capt. Dave Bunnett, a Fallen Leaf fire volunteer since 1987. “We are much better equipped to do the interior (fire) attacks.”

Fallen Leaf Fire Department’s grant was one of 271 distributed to fire departments across the nation, Secretary Tom Ridge announced last week.

“Through these funds, we will ensure that our nation’s emergency responders have the equipment and training they need to respond to all hazards,” Ridge stated.

The money is part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which is managed by the Homeland Security’s Office for Domestic Preparedness.

“The Assistance to Firefighters grants represent a major effort by the federal government to ensure that the nation’s firefighters continue to have the basic capability they require to do their jobs, improve safety and save lives,” said David Paulison, administrator of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Fire Administration.

The grants used to be managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency which merged into the Homeland Security Department after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The Department of Homeland Security is not only for terrorists, it’s for all type of risks,” said spokeswoman Ana Marcelo.

In the summer, Fallen Leaf’s population grows to about 1,000 vacationers and residents. Winter basically shuts down the lake haven.

Sauer is the only full-time employee at the department, which sits past the lake’s general store at 241 Fallen Leaf Road. A part-time firefighter works on Sauer’s off days. The bulk of the help comes from 25 volunteer firefighters.

The rest of the money, about $5,000, will be used to train Fallen Leaf firefighters through videos and other materials from the International Fire Service Training Association.

Sauer hopes the equipment arrives next spring.

“This is the first time we’ve ever been able to outfit our volunteers with the correct equipment for structural firefighting,” he said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.