HERMISTON- Saving lives is part of the job for Hermiston's fire department, but the job doesn't pay for itself, so a $125,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security is crucial to maintaining preparedness.

"We're not asking for money for ourselves," said Cpt. Jeff Adkins. "We're asking for money for you guys, the public."

The money comes from a special fund set aside each year by the Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant. This is the second year in a row the department has been given funds to augment their equipment.

"Some of the old tools are just that, they're old," said Hermiston Fire Chief Jim Stearns.

Adkins said there is a misconception for emergency services that they are all given as much money as they need and the reality of the situation is money can be scarce for even the best intentions.

"We literally scrape money together," Adkins said.

Since Sept. 11, the Department of Homeland Security has been at the forefront of sweeping financial assistance to fire departments. Hermiston's share of this years funds comes out of a $750,000,000 pot. The money is even more vital in the light of recent events in Hermiston that will mean dramatic losses in fire department revenue.

The Simplot closure will likely cost the fire district around $70,000 a year in taxes, making grant funds even more vital.

"We lose something like that and it hurts us," Adkins said.

Among the items the grant will pay for are new protective clothing for each member of the department as well as a new jaws-of-life apparatus, a piece of equipment used by the department since 1975.

Adkins is adamant about the department's current equipment being able to continue the job, but he says the new equipment will help dramatically in a situation where every second counts.

"It all makes a difference," Adkins said.

The department is in the process of deciding what kind of equipment they will be purchasing with the funds. Stearns said he doesn't know yet what will happen to the older equipment but said he would like to see it donated to a smaller fire department in need.

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