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Steffes finds if you ask, you shall receive

Morris Fire receives grant for gear

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office has given the Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District a $23,800 grant for new equipment and protective wear.

This year, the fire marshal’s office has been able to give out about $2 million in grants, said Kevin Schott, senior policy advisor for the office. For 2014, $4 million is planned.

“We’re going to be able to double that amount thanks to the legislators’ support,” he said.

Senator Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and State Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris, were on hand at Morris Fire Station 2 with Chief Tracey Steffes Tuesday to thank the fire marshal’s office for the grant.

The fire marshal’s office’s budget comes from fees insurance companies collect, not from the taxpayers.
“Not all of the grants we get are taxpayer’s money. It comes from the industrial side, too,” Steffes said.

Departments could not function without the help of the fire marshal’s office, he said, especially smaller departments. In addition to grant money, they do inspections, plan reviews for new buildings in the district, and provide other assistance.

The grant will go toward the purchase of 25 sets of boots, 15 fire helmets, 15 air bottles and new gloves, said Steffes.

The most expensive are the air bottles, which have to be replaced after a certain amount of time and are $800 each, he said. The boots are about $305, helmets $215, and the gloves are $60 a pair.

Rezin said supporting the Morris fire department is important because of the unique area it has to cover.

“The Morris fire department has a unique challenge because of the industry in the area and these grants allow them to get the equipment they need for the chemical corridor and unique industry in the area,” she said.

The Morris fire district has a 20,000 to 22,000 population and took 4,100 calls last year because of the diverse hazards in the district.

In addition to the industry in the district, Steffes said they are also responsible for protecting parts of Interstate 80, Illinois 47, railways and the river.

“Chief Steffes is always looking for grants, which is a true testament to having him in the area,” said Rezin.

“If you don’t ask for them you are never going to get the sponsorships,” said Steffes.

Keeping up with updating equipment gets expensive, a complete fire suit is about $3,500, said Schott.

After 10 years, the suits have to be replaced no matter what, but Steffes said the way his firefighters go through them, they average two years out of a suit.

The department has 51 part-time employees.

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