FAIRFIELD — The Fire Department has received a $216,364 FEMA assistance grant to update safety equipment.

The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s firefighter assistance program will allow the department to purchase new breathing apparatuses, offsetting otherwise high costs for the town.

Fire Chief Denis McCarthy said these breathing apparatuses, which function somewhat like scuba masks, protect firefighters when entering dangerous atmospheres to fight fires, rescue trapped victims or contain hazmat emergencies.

Twenty-four self-contained breathing apparatuses and a high-pressure compactor will replace the current old and obsolete equipment.

“The [apparatus] must be maintained at the highest level of service because the firefighter’s life depends on it,” McCarthy said. “This grant permits the Fairfield Fire Department to meet our obligation to firefighter safety with the most reliable and protective equipment available so they can meet their commitment to public safety.”

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy helped the department secure federal funding, and Blumenthal traveled to Fairfield on Oct. 18 to announce the grant.

“Fairfield Fire and EMS first responders’ diligence and dedication saves lives,” Blumenthal said. “By investing in this necessary equipment, we are enabling more proactive and preventive fire protection.”

The grant, which comes out to over 200 percent of the department’s annual capital budget, will allow the department to improve firefighter safety while retaining funds for other capital projects.

The town is required to match 10 percent of the federal grant. McCarthy said they plan to include this in their upcoming capital budget.

In a separate application, the town is waiting to hear back from FEMA about a $3.2 million reimbursement for the 2015 rebuild of Penfield Pavilion, destroyed in Superstorm Sandy.

The town is currently waiting for a response on a second appeal for reimbursement, filed in August after FEMA claimed the town did not meet regulation guidelines in the rebuild.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau said this FEMA appeal is “totally separate” from the firefighters assistance grant, and he believes they will get reimbursed.

“We’re very optimistic about how that’ll turn out,” Tetreau said.

rscharf@hearstmediact.com