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Central Falls gets new ambulances after having to rely on other municipalities for months. After having resorted to using other towns for years, the city has finally found a new provider of ambulance services

Central Falls gets new ambulances after having to rely on other municipalities for months. After having resorted to using other towns for years, the city has finally found a new provider of ambulance services

In a small town ravaged by COVID-19, the new fire chief discovered that his department didnt have neophytes in the early stages of the epidemic.

Replacing it seemed impossible in the state's poorest town, barely a decade out of bankruptcy.

Fire Chief Scott G. Mello, whod been with the Providence Fire Department for 32 years, was shocked when he arrived in March after a long career. Despite $25,000 in repairs, the only ambulance in Central Falls kept failing, sometimes as soon as it left the shop. No amount of repairs will keep it on the road for long.

Mello said he called every fire department in Rhode Island, as well as departments in neighboring municipalities in Massachusetts, asking for their ambulances.

Mello said Wednesday that the issue has gotten more and more severe. Citizens and councilpeople would pass and ask, Why is there an Attleboro rescue here?' Why is there a Cranston rescue here? Why is there a Pawtucket rescue here? Why is there a Swanzey rescue here? We were borrowing money from all over the place.

He immediately asked the mayor Maria Rivera to provide a new ambulance for the firefighters. Im a relentless advocate, Mello said. These guys are like my sons, and I want to give them everything they need to succeed. The only way they can achieve their ambitions is with new equipment.

Derek Collamati, the city's fund developer, took the project to the grind, writing grants.

Fast-forward seven months and Central Falls now has a new $315,000 ambulance, tamer in March, new equipment, and other new fire trucks, as well as funding for training -- all funded through $800,000 in competitive federal grants obtained in collaborating with Rhode Island Commerce, Rhode islands congressional delegation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,and FEMA.

The new ambulance, with its motto Doing it All written on the side, was unveiled at a press conference at Veterans Memorial Park on Wednesday.

Mello thanked all of those who pushed to obtain funding to purchase state-of-the-art ambulances and equipment for the citys firefighters, and he singled out the mayor. Mayor Rivera has never supported a fire department like Mello said.

COVID-19 hit Central Falls the hardest, putting the first responders working in even more challenging conditions, according to Governor Dan McKee. Our communities rely so heavily on our first responders, perhaps now more than ever, and it is critical that we continue to support them and utilize available federal resources, said the mayor.

A $315,000 HUD Community Development Block grant was used to construct the first new ambulance. Another $443,000 from FEMA Assistance to Firefighters will pay for the second ambulance and firefighter training. The city is also receiving $41,000 from a USDA Rural Development Grant for Fire Department staff vehicles and equipment, as well as $250,000 from USDA for another Fire department vehicle, septic tank for the city public works, three police cruisers, and handheld radios for all of the City Police officers.

Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman David Cicilline, expressed their satisfaction at the federal grant programs that promote public safety in the city.

As the dignitaries spoke, several firefighters sat nearby listening. Mello pointed to them and thanked them. Trust me, the backbone of every fire department is right there, men and women, Mello told the crowd. They are the people who still run into burning buildings. They are the people who go on every rescue run in this COVID crisis, whether its storms, tropical storm or hurricanes. Theyre on duty, 24 hours a day, serving the residents of this city.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovites@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.

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