Windsor Severance Fire Rescue looks forward to equipment upgrades |

Windsor Severance Fire Rescue looks forward to equipment upgrades

Emily Wenger

Volunteer and career firefighters strapped masks tightly to their faces Saturday morning before grabbing a hose and rushing into the Windsor High School building that previously housed the Fireside Room.

Self-contained breathing apparatuses — masks that provide firefighters fresh air even with smoke swirling around them — are an essential element of safety firefighters wear at least once per day, said engineer Michael Koch.

"Any time we have an incident where we could have smoke or any kind of hazardous atmosphere we put those on," Koch said. "Essentially, they're our lifeline."

That lifeline got a little stronger recently, when the Windsor Severance Fire Protection District was awarded a $107,091 federal Assistance to Firefighters grant to purchase 19 new masks.

“Any time we have an incident where we could have smoke or any kind of hazardous atmosphere we put those on. Essentially, they’re our lifeline.”Michael Koch Engineer

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Koch said the standards for the masks are upgraded every few years, and if the fire department did not upgrade its equipment this year it would be several upgrades behind. The upgrades, Koch said, include new safety features like ensuring the masks will not disintegrate or melt, and improved voice clarification for better communication.

The improved communication capabilities of the breathing apparatuses can help firefighters be more organized at the scene of an emergency, Battalion Chief Travis Chapman said.

If a collapse occurs and a firefighter becomes trapped, the firefighter will be easier to find if they can communicate clearly.

As Windsor Severance Fire Rescue firefighters trained Saturday and enjoyed what Chapman said was a rare opportunity to use a large building before it is torn down, they wore masks to more accurately simulate a fire call.

Cylinders that provide firefighters with clean air to breathe also will be included in the grant. Koch said the cylinders have a 15-year shelf life, and all of the department's cylinders are due for replacement in 2018-2019.

Chapman said he's looking forward to the additional air the new cylinders will be able to hold. The department's current masks give firefighters about 25 minutes of air, he said. The new equipment is expected to last 40-45 minutes. That extra 15 minutes could be life-saving, Chapman said, especially when a firefighter is trying to break through a wall to escape a room or working to reach an exit.

"Now we can travel that distance safer," he said.

The fire department also was awarded the grant in 2014, to help with volunteer recruitment. Since that 2014 grant was received, the department went from 38 to 100 volunteers, said Fire Chief Herb Brady.

Thanks to this year's grant, $100,000 in the fire district's budget can now go to other equipment needs, Brady said.

"We only apply (for the grant) if we need it," he said. "We don't just apply because we want it."

While Brady said he does not know exactly what those needs may be, it can help mitigate the cost of purchases like the new fire truck the department is awaiting. A new fire truck, said Operations Chief Mike Blackwell, can cost as much as $500,000.

Windsor Severance Fire Rescue

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