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The grant, announced by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, will pay for a fire tender vehicle.

COURTESY PHOTO: SCAPPOOSE RURAL FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT  - This is the fire tender vehicle the Scappoose Fire Department plans to replace. Firefighting efforts at the Scappoose Rural Fire Protection District will get a big boost thanks to a grant announced by Oregon's two U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

Because of a $399,038 grant for vehicle acquisition from the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program, Scappoose firefighters will soon have a new water tender: a vehicle designed to contain a large amount of water to assist firefighters in battling flames. That's an invaluable asset, especially in the more rural sections of Columbia County where firefighters can't just connect a hose to a fire hydrant.

"We requested assistance from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to purchase a vehicle, specifically a water tender," Scappoose Fire Chief Jeff Pricher said. "We did so because one of our current water tenders wasn't a purpose-built fire apparatus. It was a dump truck chassis that had a tank slapped on it, which essentially means it wasn't engineered to be a fire vehicle."

When a vehicle hasn't been engineered to respond to emergency situations that require a lot of water, it can create serious issues — including rollovers — when it's loaded up for firefighting, Pricher explained.

"FEMA gave us these funds so that we could purchase a purpose-built water tender, so that we can bring enough water to these fires that occur in the rural area," Pricher said.

Water tenders can respond to emergencies ranging from structure fires to hazardous material events.

The water tender the Scappoose Fire District will be purchasing is able to hold up to 3,000 gallons of water. The vehicle will include a pump that can pull water out of tanks, wells or other sources, or push water out to other firefighting equipment and vehicles.

Pricher described another way the tender equipment will help his district.

"Over half of our fleet is 25 years old," Pricher said. "To purchase fire equipment now, with the supply chain disruptions, and the cost of everything going up, we really needed FEMA's help to get a jump start on replacing our equipment, because If we hadn't received this, we're pretty sure we wouldn't have been able to save enough money to put our apparatus on a replacement schedule."

Pricher continued, "This is going to jumpstart our ability to save funds for future purchases, which is important because we don't want to have to go out to the taxpayers every time we need something. We want to show our community that we're frugal with their hard-earned taxpayer dollars. This is one of those ways that we're going to be successful in the future, because of this award from FEMA."

Thanks to supply chain issues throughout the country, the fire district will have to wait a while to actually take delivery of its new water tender, according to Pricher.

"Unfortunately, with all of the supply chain disruptions, we're looking at anywhere from 12 months to two years before I will be able to take possession of this new piece of equipment," he said.

There's also a bit of red tape involved, although it's mostly just procedural.

"With the sizable amount of funds that have been awarded to us, the district board does have to take action to accept the award, mostly because the staff does not have the purchase authority to authorize accepting that award," Pricher said.

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