Pa. Dept. Refurbs Aerial After Losing Grant Bids

Firefighters across the Alleghenies have been battling tough blazes this week, but what's also difficult is making sure they have the right equipment to do the job.

During a rough economy, many fire departments, such as the West Hills Regional Fire Department in Cambria County, are finding ways to be resourceful.

There, it's been seven months since crews sent their ladder truck away to be refurbished at a cost of about $250,000. It would have cost more than $1 million to buy a new one.

"Finance-wise, we couldn't even think about swinging to buy a new ladder truck" said Chief Don Blasko.

But the refurbishment entailed everything from a new paint job to having the ladder removed, and included upgrades such as new safety features required by the state, new LED lights and new signals to protect vehicles following the fire trucks.

Though there aren't a lot of tall buildings in the area, there are many tall trees, which is why the ladder is so critical, Blasko said. Even though the department cut costs by opting to refurbish its existing truck, it will be paying the price for a long time.

"We put in for grants -- one for this refurbishment -- but on the very first round we got rejected from that grant," Blasko said.

He said grants are becoming very competitive with so many departments in a crunch all trying to get their hands on the same pot of money. So, in response, fire departments are relying on those people they protect to help.

"The support for every fire department right now is desperately needed," Blasko said.

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