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Ashburnham Fire Dept. Seeks to Boost Force with $90G Grant

September 25, 2018

ASHBURNHAM -- Fire officials hope that a $90,000 federal grant recently awarded to the Fire Department will help bolster the local roster of volunteer and call firefighters.

“The biggest thing for us right now is rebuilding the call fire department here in town,” said Fire Chief James Cleveland. “Increasingly throughout the entire country, volunteer and call firefighters are getting harder to bring in and hold onto.”

Cleveland said the Fire Department has about 30 call and volunteer firefighters total, though he said he would ideally want at least 40 people.

“We’re able to staff fairly well, but the general rule of thumb with these is that only about 25 percent of them will show up to any fire,” he said.

Ashburnham was recently named one of six Massachusetts communities that would receive a portion of a total $3.3 million in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following this month’s natural gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.

Cleveland said his department will be using the grant money to attract new firefighters by making an existing EMT training course, which students previously had to pay for, free for two years. The department will also pay to send its three busiest call and volunteer firefighters to a national conference for two years and offer a $1,500 stipend to cadets going through the state fire academy.

“The goal was to make it more convenient for people to take the EMT class and that was also the same goal we have for people going through the academy,” said Cleveland. “The firefighters conference has more to do with keeping our current members by awarding top responders. The more people come out to calls, the more likely they are to be able to go to it.”

The nearby Gardner Fire Department was also named a recipient of some of the FEMA grant money, with $452,728 being awarded for the purchase of a new fire pumper truck.

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.

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