Nonprofit foundation aids agencies across country

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FARMINGTON — Local police and fire departments have received nearly $50,000 to help them purchase new protective equipment.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded grants of nearly $25,000 earlier this month to the Bloomfield Police Department and the Farmington Fire Department. The nonprofit organization donates funds and equipment to law enforcement and emergency response agencies across the country.

Darin Fitzgerald, Firehouse Subs franchisee, said he has never seen the foundation award so much money to an area with a relatively small population like Farmington.

He added the customers at the chain's Farmington location have been very generous when donating to the foundation. The foundation receives donations when customers are asked to "round up" the cost of their order by 25 cents or the nearest dollar amount.

About $113,000 in grants had been awarded to New Mexico recipients from the foundation before the Bloomfield and Farmington grants this year, Fitzgerald said. About $67,000 has been awarded to San Juan County agencies since the Farmington location opened in 2016.

Bloomfield police will use the grant funds to purchase 23 bulletproof vests, according to interim Chief Lt. Randon Matthews. It was the largest grant awarded to the department in its history, he said.

The new vests are lighter and thinner than the department's current vests, which are bulky and can limit an officer's range of movement.

Matthews said the new vests are more effective, even though they are thinner and lighter. The current vests weight about 7 pounds, and the new vests will be about half that weight.

"We're super excited for the new ones because the officers have a lot of back problems," Matthews said.

The vests need to be replaced every five years, and the last set was purchased in 2014.

The grant for the Farmington Fire Department will pay for 10 new sets of bunker gear, according to Chief David Burke.

The National Fire Protection Association standards state fire protection gear, including coats and pants, needs to be replaced every 10 years, according to Burke.

Keeping the bunker gear on a replacement schedule is important to maintaining safety and health standards for the firefighters, he said.

Burke lauded the efforts of Lt. Jacob Shadd Rohwer, who died of cancer on Jan. 11, 2018. Rohwer has been credited with working hard to help prevent firefighters' exposure to contamination, both in the fire station and on call.

The department purchases 10 to 20 sets of gear a year, depending on the amount of damage the gear sustains while in use.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

More: Firefighter who died of cancer dedicated to safety

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