BUFFALO, Mo. - For 30 years, Delvin Mallard has called Buffalo his home. He has seen many changes.
"The city seems to be growing. We like it," he said.
Something else is growing for the city of just over 3,000 people: improvements to fire protection.
"They started with a very small fire department, all volunteer. The fire chief was not full time. A lot has happened. They have done well," he said.
After two years of working with old equipment, firefighters at the Buffalo City Fire Department now have new gear.
At first glance, all firefighting clothes may look the same, but, when you look closely, you can start to see cracks in the protection.
It is not easy for the city to afford new gear, so the Buffalo Fire Department applied for a grant totaling nearly $7,000 last year to buy new bunker gear. It is usually changed out every five years.
"How much toll the gear has taken, how many fires it's been in; they (firefighters) have to inspect their gear monthly," said Chief Erich Higgins.
Earlier this week, the goods arrived. One set totals $1,700. It includes the essentials from the coat and pants to helmets and boots.
"It protects our firemen from being inside so they can not get burnt. It keeps them healthy and protects them," the chief said.
The upgrade means more than just safety for the little fire engine that could.
"The guys enjoy it really well. It gave a good boost to know that there is money out there for them. The city is pretty tight with the economy the way it is," said Higgins.
The department received the grant from Rural Development. It is a grant funded by the USDA, aimed at providing equipment to rural communities. The fire chief says the need for his department continues to grow.
Buffalo's department is made up of mostly volunteers. It responds to an average of 2.5 calls per day. The only full-time employee is the fire chief.
Higgins says he has applied for a FEMA SAFER grant. If approved, he would be able to hire four full-time firefighters.