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Fire departments receive grant approval for new radio system

Fire departments in the Brainerd lakes area are getting closer to having the new 800-megahertz radio system in place that will allow them to serve and protect citizens in an even more efficient fashion.

The new radio system uses digital technology and allows police, fire and emergency personnel to communicate on any number of channels across the country, region and even the state. Cass County is already using the new system and Crow Wing County will start using the 800-megahertz system on May 1, which includes the Brainerd Fire Department.

Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said Friday that the 13 fire departments in the lakes area were approved for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in consultation with the U.S. Fire Administration, for the new radio system.

The grant is for an estimated $761,000, and the federal government will pay 80 percent of the total grant, leaving 20 percent or about $152,000 for the 13 fire departments to pay for. The fire departments included in the grant are Brainerd, Crosby, Crosslake, Cuyuna, Deerwood, Emily, Fifty Lakes, Garrison, Ideal, Ironton, Mission, Nisswa and Pequot Lakes.

Stunek said Brainerd would have had to pay around $55,000-$60,000 for the new system without the grant. With the grant approval, the fire department will pay around $17,000-$18,000.

Stunek said Brainerd applied for the federal grant a year ago, but it was denied. About three months ago, Stunek and Elaine Kraemer, Brainerd Fire Department administrative assistant/dispatcher, gave the grant application another shot and it was a success.

“This is great news,” Stunek said. “A lot of hours went into this and the new system will allow us to keep up with the ever-changing technology and the way we communicate.”

The new radio system for all emergency services is a federal mandate. The new system will allow unlimited amount of channels — called talk groups — that agencies can use to communicate.

The grant will help pay for the equipment needed for the new radio system that includes the portables, which are the handheld devices that firefighters will carry; mobiles, the devices that will be in the fire trucks; and the base, which will remain at the fire station headquarters.

Stunek said firefighters will have to be trained on the new equipment.

“The new devices are like day and night different,” said Stunek. “We’ll be working on the training in the months to come.”

Stunek said the new devices are efficient, will have no dead zones and will work from anywhere. He said the current portables have reception for only about four miles.

Stunek said the main benefit of the new radio system will be improved public safety.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at