Dexter Area Fire Department Well On Its Way To Being Better Equipped, Fire Chief Receives Re-Designation


By Lynne Beauchamp,

Fire Chief, Robert Smith, with the Dexter Area Fire Department (DAFD), has announced DAFD is the recipient of two separate grants.

In April 2018, DAFD applied for an AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grant) SAFER grant (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency) through FEMA. Smith was recently informed DAFD was approved for the grant and will receive $20,000 to conduct a staffing study to see what the needs of DAFD are, which include the City of Dexter, Dexter Township and Webster Township.

“This grant will allow us to see where we need to be, where we should be, look at where we are today and see where the gaps are,” said Smith. “These grants aren’t easy to get and we are fortunate to get one”.

Smith said the grant will pay for a study on recommendations for appropriately staffing and equipping the DAFD for the future, in which Smith can take results back to the respectable boards for consideration.

DAFD also was awarded an AFG Equipment grant, also through FEMA, in the amount of $210,953 with a 5% match required from the department. Smith said this money will be used to purchase new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for the department. He said the current SCBAs are over ten years old and have been rapidly failing. The equipment is essential for firefighter’s health and safety when entering buildings to attack a fire.

“It’s federal dollars coming back into the area,” added Smith. “I think it is important for people to know we are working for them and trying to bring state and federal money back into the area.”

In the meantime, DAFD has been able to purchase, through capital improvement funds and budgeting, two rescue squads that were recently put into service. The first rescue squad went into service last November and is stationed at the downtown fire station. The second rescue squad went into service about two months ago and is stationed at the North Territorial location. This rescue squad is equipped with a tank and pump for wild fires. Smith said the department paid cash for both squads, approximately $70,000 each.

Along with the grant money to help aid the DAFD, Chief Smith was re-designated as “Fire Chief Officer” by the Commission on Professional Credentialing with the Center for Public Safety Excellence. This is the fourth time the Chief has received this acknowledgement and is based on education, training and community involvement. Smith is proud of this accomplishment, stating only 1,300 people around the world have received this acknowledgement.

Smith said he started with DAFD in 2009 as Chief and has seen many challenges in operating a smaller department than what he came from. One of the biggest challenges is working within a certain budget and “the bridge!” Smith said he has to order specially made equipment to be able to drive equipment under the low hanging bridge on Main Street. One of the highlights of working in Dexter, Smith said, is being able to directly work with his crew.

“Doing what you can with the resources that are available, I can give them the best service available, but that comes at a cost,” Smith said. “I think we have done a good job of managing within the budget.”

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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