Safety equipment purchase pending

Friday, March 11, 2011

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has awarded Lewisburg's Fire Department a grant of more than $53,000 for the purchase of equipment for firefighters.

"We had asked for $62,000," Fire Chief Larry Williams said Wednesday afternoon at the fire hall on Water Street. "They reduced it to $53,055 and we accepted it.

"That gets us a total of $140,000 in grant money for the fire department since 2006," Williams said.

The high-priced equipment to be purchased includes air packs and air bottles that allow firefighters to breathe in a smoky building, he said. Bottles cost about $7,000 each. Air packs cost $5,200-$6,200.

Other equipment on Williams' shopping list costs considerably less, but provides a dramatic escape route for firefighters who must evacuate a burning building when their way in is no longer an exit.

"It's especially important if a firefighter is ... on a second floor, or higher," he said.

The personal safety, survival equipment includes fire-rated rope, an anchoring device and pulleys. It's used when a firefighter must rappel down an outside wall of a burning building because stairs collapsed. It's also used to lift a firefighter from a basement under similar circumstances.

"Positive ventilation fans" are also on the shopping list.

"You can push smoke more than you can exhaust it," Williams explained. "It improves visibility and reduces toxic fumes."

However, he continued, "You don't put air on a fire until it's knocked down. Then you ventilate to get heat and smoke out of the structure."

Williams, Mike Baron, Bob Davis and other firefighters drafted the grant application. "Mike entered it, but we all worked as a team for verification" of information submitted with the application, the chief said.

Lewisburg must match the federal grant with about $2,700.

"We will be calling for sealed bids for the equipment," Williams said. "A date is to be set on when they will be opened. I'd say it will be around the first of April."