Federal grant helps Homewood Fire Department update equipment, training

The Homewood Fire Department will be able to replace an aging ventilation system and beef up its training programs thanks to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration.

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who represents Homewood and Flossmoor in Congress, announced the federal grant recently. About $52,000 of the $58,210 grant will be used to replace the ventilation system, and the remaining money will be used for firefighter training.

Homewood Fire Chief Bob Grabowski said the ventilation system was at the end of its useful life. HFD was one of the first departments to install the Plymovent system more than two decades ago.

"We're having a number of issues with it," he said. "It just started falling apart. We're spending money every year to keep it running."

The grant money will replace most of the ventilation system. Wiring will not be replaced, but the piping, rails and motors will be new. Bids for the new system are scheduled to be opened Friday, Oct. 6.

Grabowski said the system hooks hoses to the exhaust system of department vehicles so they can be started in the building without exposing firefighters to fumes. When trucks leave the bays, the ventilation hoses follow along on a rail and automatically detach as vehicles exit.

The system routinely helps keep the garage air clean, but it is especially appreciated in the winter months.

"If the guys are working on the truck in the station, they can start it up in the middle of winter and let it run," Grabowski said. "They don't have to pull it out in 30 below."
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