Orland Fire Department fundraiser makes good progress

ORLAND — A fundraiser to buy new turnout gear for the Orland Fire Department has made good progress so far, said Fire Chief Bobby Conary.

Conary said that since the fundraiser started in September, the department has raised $9,500 out of the $13,000 required to buy a set of replacement gear for the department’s 17 interior-certified firefighters.

“Unfortunately, much of our turnout gear — the special pants, coat, gloves and flash hood that we wear — is so old it no longer meets the National Fire Protection Association’s mandates for safety,” Conary wrote in a letter that was sent out to 900 Orland residents last month.

Buying new gear is expensive, and the all-volunteer Orland Fire Department isn’t rich. Conary said the department can usually raise enough money for new gear by applying for grants from foundations and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This year, however, several of the department’s grant applications fell through, so it’s up to Orland taxpayers to foot the bill. As the donations approach $13,000, Conary hopes to find other grants and foundations that might support his next goal: buying a second set of new turnout gear for his firefighters.

In his letter, Conary explained how firefighters are regularly exposed to toxins and carcinogens that are released at every fire.

“The very best way for firefighters to reduce their risk of cancer is to wash their turnout gear after every incident,” the chief wrote. “In order to make this feasible, all firefighters must have two sets of gear, one to have ready for calls, and one to wear as a back-up while their gear is being washed.”

To buy a spare set of turnout gear for each of the department’s interior-certified firefighters will cost another $28,000, but Conary says it’s worth it to reduce the risk of Orland’s first responders getting cancer.

“We know that this gear is priceless,” he wrote in his letter, “and that on the day we arrive to help you or your loved ones, it will seem priceless to you, too.”

Conary said the department is considering setting up a GoFundMe page so that donations can be made online, depending on how the next wave of grant-writing efforts turns out. Until then, donations can be sent to Orland Fire Department, P.O. Box 254, Orland, ME 04472.

David Roza

David Roza

David grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and now covers news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.