New packs offer breath of fresh air to BFD firefighters

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 23, 2007

The Brookhaven Fire Department will soon be in possession ofthree new air packs which will give firefighters more breathingtime and additional safety features.

“We had some air packs that were going to need replacing, but wewere waiting to see if we could get a grant to do it,” saidBrookhaven Fire Chief Bob Watts. “Finally we just had to go aheadand buy new ones.”

The packs are the tanks worn by a firefighter during a fire togive him fresh air in situations in which there is no breathableair.

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“You can’t go in without that,” said Watts. “These devices havemade it possible to go into the fire and attack it at the sourceinstead of having to fight it from the outside.”

According to Watts, the new state-of-the-art air packs haveseveral updated features. Those include an air gauge indicator thatthe firefighter can see in his mask to keep him from having to lookdown at the gauge on the tank.

“There’s also a built-in pass device,” said Watts, speaking ofthe alarm that goes off when a firefighter is in trouble orinactive after a certain amount of time. “On the older units, thepass device is a separate attachment.”

He said the new units can also hold 45 minutes of fresh air, asopposed to the older ones, which hold 30-minutes worth.

“Of course that depends on how hard the guy is breathing,” saidWatts.

He said that it’s rare that a firefighter has to use 45-minutesworth of air in a fire situation, but that it wouldn’t beunheard-of in a hazardous materials situation.

The three new air packs cost the city $14,604.63, said CityClerk Mike Jinks.

“The chief told us there was a need, so we went ahead andordered the packs and the equipment that went along with them,”said Jinks.

The fire department is applying for grants to add six more ofthe brand new air packs to their inventory. The units currentlybeing used are functional, though most of them are several yearsold.

“I’ve been here 13 years, and some of them were here when I gothere,” said Lt. Eric Smith.

Watts said the older units are still working just fine, but thathe hopes a grant comes through so the fire department can continueto add the new state-of-the-art air packs as time goes on.

“It wouldn’t hurt us to have three for each truck,” he said.”But right now we’re just so happy and grateful to have the oneswe’ve got.”