West Hartford Fire Department Capt. Adam Pacheco applied for the $25,000 grant for rescue equipment that had been identified as a ‘need.’
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Fire Department now has enough bail-out kits for every single front-line member of the department – kits that will provide those department members with the proper equipment to evacuate themselves from a life-threatening situation – thanks to a generous $25,000 grant provided by the Leary Firefighters Foundation.
“We had identified a need,” said Capt. Adam Pacheco. The equipment had been specced out, he said, but just wasn’t yet in the department’s budget.
Pacheco said when the most recent turnout gear was ordered for department members several years ago, it was ordered with the right type of pockets to hold the bail-out kits. “We were laying the foundation for a tool of this nature, but budgets were tight, and then COVID happened.”
The kits were on the back burner until Pacheco learned of the grant opportunity from the Leary Firefighters Foundation and applied for the tools that will make sure the town’s firefighters have the most modern and efficient tools to keep them safe.
The successful grant application means that the West Hartford Fire Department now has 85 bail-out kits – enough for every front-line firefighter to have a means of self-rescue.
The kits include a hook/anchor, rope, and a device that attaches to a window sill and allows for safe and rapid descent from higher levels of a building.
Pacheco said the department had a scare a few years ago – a “may-day” call by a firefighter trapped on the upper level of a burning home without safe means of egress. In that particular situation, the firefighter was able to get out through a window and land on the porch roof below.
“That’s what lit the fire under me to want to get this,” Pacheco said, pun intended. “We wanted to make sure that very specific scenario didn’t happen again.”
“I could not be more proud of the folks who had the vision for this, put the work in to apply and am really honored that West Hartford was selected for this,” Chief Greg Priest said. “As a device that is generally reserved for situations for the escape from a life or death situation, I hope they never need to be used but am reassured that each firefighter has it available.”
In early February, when the kits were delivered, two members of the Leary Foundation Board of Directors – Chief Dave Morkal of the Fire Department of New York and Chief Deanna McDevitt of the Boston Fire Department – came to West Hartford to discuss the grant and the critical need it filled. West Hartford Fire Department leadership demonstrated the use of the kits and photos and videos of training. They also provided some “fire service 101” training to members of Zero Gravity Marketing Group, the social media outreach firm that works with the Leary Firefighters Foundation and accompanied the Board members in West Hartford.
We’re thrilled to spotlight one of our 2022 grant recipients, the @WestHartfordFD in CT. Through our grant program, we were able to provide a bail-out kit to each firefighter in the department. pic.twitter.com/W9g0Uq52ba
— Leary Firefighters (@LearyFF) February 26, 2023
Morkal, a longtime member of the FDNY who will be retiring at the end of March, said actor Denis Leary started the Foundation in 2000, directly in response to a tragic fire in late 1999. Leary is a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, and a cousin and one of his best childhood friends were among the “Worcester Six” – the firefighters who were killed fighting a blaze in an abandoned warehouse in downtown Worcester.
“His cousin was so into training, always coming up with different ways to do things, but they didn’t have the money,” Morkal told We-Ha.com. After the tragedy, Leary started the Leary Firefighters Foundation to fill that gap and supply equipment or training that municipalities might not be able to afford but would help firefighters do their jobs safely.
In addition to bail-out kits, Leary Firefighters Foundation provides grants for thermal imaging cameras, extrication equipment such as hydraulic devices, and more recently items that help mitigate the risk of cancers that firefighters are often afflicted with.
“What is it they need to keep them safe?” is what the foundation considers, Morkal said.
When selecting grant recipients, Morkal added, it’s a partnership.”We look at departments that have already taken steps but find themselves a little bit short.”
Morkal said he’s seen personally the need for bail-out gear, and seen it in use. The son of Leary’s cousin who died in the Worcester fire is now a firefighter, Morkal said, and he also once got “jammed up” and needed to use bail-out equipment.
“The Leary Foundation is a great group of people,” Pacheco said. He – and the rest of the department – appreciates Denis Leary using his platform for good.
“Everybody has been trained,” Pacheco said. The kits have been deployed to all firefighters.
“We hope they never have to use it,” Morkal added.
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