Downtown fire

The Keene Fire Department responding to a downtown fire last month.

Keene firefighters will be able to upgrade their breathing equipment, thanks to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The agency, through its Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, awarded just over $885,000 to five fire departments across the state, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation announced Wednesday.

The grant program provides financial assistance to fire departments to enhance the safety of firefighters and the public, a news release from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office says. This funding can be used for training, equipment, personal protective equipment and modifications to fire stations.

Keene was given nearly $370,000 to replace the department’s roughly 60 breathing apparatuses, according to Chief Mark Howard.

These need to be replaced, he explained, because they are set to expire in a few years.

“This is a big deal,” he said. “It will provide funding, but not all of the funding, for all of our breathing apparatus.”

Other fire departments receiving grants are Berlin, Pittsfield, Holderness and New Hampton. Keene’s was the largest award of the five.

“I recently spoke with fire chiefs across New Hampshire who shared that one of their biggest concerns is a lack of adequate funding as this pandemic continues to strain state and local governments’ budgets,” U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said in a prepared statement. “These federal grants will help fire departments across our state afford the crucial protective equipment that they need to stay safe in an emergency.”

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com.