Since moving to an encrypted system several years ago, finding and affording enough handheld radios is a challenge that both the Police and Fire departments have faced. With the grant awarded to Mesquite Fire Rescue in June, they will be able to add six new handheld radios, which will allow for all personnel to have one, as well as a couple for backup in case one of the others breaks down. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

The fruits of labor from the past year are still being shown at the Mesquite Fire Department as the department has been awarded two much-needed grants.

According to Firefighter Spencer Lewis, who does most of the grant writing for the department, MFD has been awarded a $90,000 grant that will outfit four of its vehicles and four of its personnel with the proper radios needed daily. The grant will also allow for two additional handhelds that can be kept on standby in case one of the others malfunctions. That’s a necessity the department has never had.

The second grant is for an upgraded firewall for the City of Mesquite. Their current security firewall, while effective in stopping attacks on their systems, is unable to track where the attacks originate from. With a $30,000 grant, the city will be able to upgrade the firewall and start legally going after the culprits behind the attacks.

“This wasn’t something that a fire department would typically go after,” Lewis said. “But being team players and seeing that there’s free money available, we went to Dirk [Marshall] at the city level and asked him what he needed.” Altogether, they spent approximately 80 hours to get the grant, and that is often times in addition to their already overfilled plates in their departments.

In the 2016 State of Nevada Commission on Homeland Security annual report, Cyber Security was listed as a top priority according to a threat hazard identification and risk assessment. Because of this, obtaining funds to update the city’s software was highly likely.

Lewis and the MFD also attempted to get a third grant for side-by-sides, that would work with their UTVs and allow them to have a better response to medical calls in the hard to reach areas of a golf course.

Four of Mesquite Fire’s vehicles were without proper radios, creating a potential hazard if a mass emergency required all units to be used. Thanks to a grant that was awarded in June, the department will finally be able to outfit every vehicle with the technology. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

“One of the side-by-sides would have had a stretcher built into it,” Lewis said. “We would then be able to use our UTV to respond to the areas of some of these golf courses that our trucks simply cannot go without causing a lot of damage.”

In the past, Lewis noted that several bridges at the golf courses had been damaged by their regular vehicles. “This would have made several scenarios a lot easier and safer,” he said.

Obtaining the grants is easier said than done, and often requires more than 100 hours of work spanning several months from start to finish. With the budget cuts and restraints, it’s necessary for the department to continue to build and be capable to respond to the ever-growing number of calls they receive. Lewis explained that often times it takes four hours to prepare the initial grant, several hours to fine tune the application, attend several meetings with the committees (which are often in Las Vegas or in Carson City and take a numerous amount of more hours) and another few hours to accept the grant and fill out the necessary paperwork to get the funds streamed to their department.

The work isn’t over with that acceptance, however.

Depending on the grant, there are other reports that must be filled out and submitted on a quarterly basis. If the grant requires certain exercises, such as the Swift Water Rescue Exercise held in March, then reports must be completed before, during and after such events and submitted to the necessary entities.

“It’s worth every minute of it,” said Lewis. “For the good that comes out of it, no matter what department benefits the most, it’s all worth it.”

The grants are complicated in part by the fact that the funds are from the Federal Government, which are given to the individual states. Those states then distribute it to the counties, who choose which entity will receive it. All of the reports, however, are still given to the state as required by the grant.