Udall’s office announces Firefighters grant program winners | SkyHiNews.com

Udall’s office announces Firefighters grant program winners

Tonya Bina
Grand County CO Colorado

The emergency-services community in Grand County is soon to benefit from a $1 million federal grant.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s office announced this week 13 fire departments across Colorado have won grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters grant program. Among them, East Grand Fire Protection District is listed as being awarded $1 million -the maximum amount – out of a total $4 million awarded to Colorado thus far.

“The grants allow firefighting and emergency medical service agencies to keep up with new technology and obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources to keep their communities safe from fire and related hazards,” states a press release from Udall’s office.

Fire Chief Todd Holzwarth of the East Grand Fire Protection District applied for the regional grant last fall on behalf of all five fire districts in Grand County to complete local implementation of the statewide digital trunked radio system.

A $1 million grant to East Grand Fire in 2009 allowed the fire districts to change over to the digital technology with new portable and mobile units and a repeater at Sunspot at Winter Park Resort.

Police, sheriff, firefighters, dispatch, emergency services, and public works throughout Grand County use the modern trunked system, which replaced the old technology of VHF radio systems. The trunked radio system uses the same digital trunking technology that cell phones utilize. Through mutual aid channels, the various agencies can communicate, even over long distances.

The system in Grand County allows for up to “five simultaneous conversations going on” if there are several calls occurring at the same time, said Holzwarth.

The goal of the state, which has utilized trunked radio for the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation since about 1992, is to have all emergency agencies in the state on the digital system. There are currently 202 active trunked radio sites throughout the state, with five presently located in Grand County.

Grand County communication is made possible through repeater sites at Sunspot, Table Mountain near Lake Granby, Grouse Mountain near Parshall, Blue Ridge above Green Mountain Reservoir, and on Rabbit Ears Pass. Another on Berthoud Pass provides only minimal coverage at the county border.

The promised 2012 grant of $1 million is too be used to add two repeater sites, one in the Granby area and another in the Kremmling area, to fill “holes” where the system “doesn’t work as well,” Holzwarth said. The grants will supply radio transmitters at existing communication sites and microwave links to tie into the rest of the statewide trunked radio system.

The grant should cover the majority of the cost of the added equipment, which should improve both mobile and portable coverage within towns, buildings and major traffic areas, Holzwarth said.

The grant requires 5 percent in matching funds. The various emergency agencies in Grand County that utilize trunked radio will be approached to help cover the $50,000 match, Holzwarth said. “One way or another, we’ll make it happen.”

Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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