Local departments get federal aid to fight fires

Four Shelby County fire departments recently got federal help in strengthening their communication systems while making the area safer for everyone.

The Pelham, Chelsea and Helena fire departments and the North Shelby Fire District received a total of $272,510 in grants to complete a regional communications project between the four departments.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded the grants through its Assistance to Firefighters program after firefighter peer review panels looked over the project and determined it closely met the program’s guidelines.

Through the grant, the departments will be able to update their communications systems, and will be able to more easily communicate with each other during an emergency, said U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Alabama, who helped secure the grant.

“This major communications project will help improve efficiency and enhance fire protection throughout the entire region served by these four departments,” Bachus said. “Neighboring fire companies rely on each other for support, so it’s essential that they are able to communicate quickly and clearly.”

Bachus praised the four departments for joining together to propose the joint communication project, and said their cooperation was key to the project getting funded.

“It is a tribute to the Pelham Fire Department, North Shelby Fire District, Chelsea Fire Department and Helena Fire Department that they came together to propose a joint project with very strong credentials,” Bachus said. “Residents in the area will be better protected as a result of their excellent cooperation.”

The departments will use the grant money to purchase portable radios, radio repeaters, antennas and computer equipment, said Pelham Fire Department Chief Danny Ray.

“Computer and mobile data uploads are becoming especially important for fire and rescue calls,” Ray said. “Our departments work closely together, so having this enhanced equipment will help all of us.

“We are very happy to receive this grant,” Ray added.