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District 7 spending $200,000 for air packs

Cash-strapped after its requested 7-cent “lid lift” failed last month, Fire District 7 still intends to go through with a $650,000 federal grant deal which will allow the district to replace its entire inventory of air packs.

At the Nov. 25 district Board of Com-missioners meeting, the commissioners tentatively put their support behind the proposed equipment buy after Fire Chief Mike Brown convinced them the district could ill-afford to do otherwise.

The proposal will match $453,000 in federal grant funds with $194,000 of district funds — an approximate 70/30 spilt.

The money will be used to buy 120 Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), approximately 90 spare air bottles, plus a compressor to fill the packs and equipment to maintain them.

The district’s old packs, Brown said, are no longer at an acceptable level of reliability. Most of the packs have been retro-fitted in some way and none are up to current safety standards.

“They’re old, they’re outdated, they do not comply with current standards,” Brown said. “Even though we’re in a tight fiscal situation, we still have lots of fires, we still have lots of firefighters. That part of our responsibility hasn’t changed. We need to meet the minimum requirements.”

After two years of trying for this grant, Brown hinted it would be foolish not to take the money. He also said it would be a mistake not to take every dime of matching funds the grant offered. Therefore, even though the bid estimate for the equipment came in below the amount projected, Brown is proposing add-ons to the equipment roster that would allow the district to use up all the federal money.

These add-ons include a booster pump to make the district’s current compressor compatible with the new packs, an upgrade on the packs for in-mask radio communicators and enough money to provide every employee — some 200-plus firefighters — with his or her own facemask.

Brown said this last item could become very important since it would eliminate the need for constant fit-checks — firefighters who now share masks have to readjust the facepieces every time they put them on to make sure outside air is sealed out.

“The only reason not to do this is to save money,” Brown said. “From a savings perspective, this is better than putting the money in a bank and collecting interest on it.”

Beyond the grant-funded equipment purchase, Brown said the district is looking into using the trade-in value of their old equipment to purchase a second compressor.

With three compressors, the task of filling all the packs in all the stations — each fire truck will have four, plus the packs on medical units — will become eas-

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