ARLINGTON - Volunteer firefighters in Gilliam County are getting new equipment and training thanks to a federal grant.

The Arlington Fire Department will get $44,500 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide training for volunteer firefighters from the county's four firefighting agencies. The money will be used to provide classroom sessions, computer-based training and hands-on experience under simulated conditions.

With a new training program in Arlington, volunteers can get the education they need to become safe and effective firefighters without having to leave the county, said Bart Prouty, Gilliam County fire services coordinator. While training sessions will also be offered in other locations in the county, volunteers who can't attend will be able to use an interactive computer program to make up what they've missed.

Offering more training opportunities will help ensure that Gilliam County firefighters can achieve state certification standards, Prouty said.

"Small rural communities have a hard time getting their firefighters trained because they're all volunteers, and they have to divide their time between work and family, too," he said.

Providing training locally will also help keep costs down, he said. Firefighters won't have to travel to Hermiston or Pendleton, saving travel expenses.

Classes will also be open to firefighters from other agencies in northeast Oregon.

The Condon Fire Department also received a FEMA grant of more than $56,400 to buy new fire suits, oxygen masks and other equipment for use in fighting both structure fires and wildland fires.

Arlington and Condon are among 5,000 firefighting agencies across the nation to receive grants totalling $360 million through the 2002 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. This year, more than 19,000 fire departments applied for grants to support fire protection and prevention, emergency medical services and the purchase of new vehicles and equipment.

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