CANTON – Thanks to a $50,000 grant, 25 volunteer Canton firefighters can breathe a lot easier now while fighting fires.

Fire Chief Wayne Dube, who was ecstatic about receiving the federal money, said it would be used to buy nine air packs, nine spare air bottles, and an air compressor.

“I’m pretty pumped about it,” Dube said Thursday evening after learning that his 2003 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program application was approved. “Now everyone can have their own personal face mask.”

The department’s newest air packs were bought in 1991. Some of the packs, however, which were bought in 1975, were either nearly unusable or had been taken out of service over the past two weeks.

“Some of our packs were on their last legs, so this was a godsend because we didn’t know what we were going to do,” he added.

Reception of the $50,046 grant means that the town of Canton will have to provide a 10 percent cash match of $5,000.

“This is the biggest grant we’ve ever got. Last year we got $28,000 for turnout gear. But I’m glad to see that small fire departments are getting the money now because I think they really need help,” Dube added.

Canton’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program award is part of $750 million being administered by the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The program assists fire departments throughout the United States.

Seven other fire departments – Frye Island, Hope, Farmingdale, West Frankfort, Canaan, Hudson and Palermo – also received similar grants Thursday.

The funds increase the effectiveness of firefighting operations, firefighter health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, emergency medical service programs, and fire prevention and safety programs in local departments.

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