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Can't fight fire without air

New packs will arrive next year

November 10, 2010 | 09:26 AM
When it comes to fighting fires, the most common tools associated with the trade are a hose and an ax. The hose shoots water to douse the fire, the ax to chop through solid materials to find "hot spots" or clear the way to save someone or something.

What's easy to forget is that it takes oxygen for something to burn.

No oxygen, no flame. But unfortunately, fire burns the air a firefighter needs to breathe.

That's why one of the most important tools a firefighter has is a self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA. Soon, the Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire and Rescue Department will replace their old packs with 27 new SCBAs.

"Our current packs don't meet the National Fire Protection Agency's standards," said Fred Schalow, Bloomfield-Genoa City fire chief.

"That's the big reason we went for the grant."

"We have packs dating back to 1992," Fire Capt. Jeremy Tamillo said.

In February, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security decided to issue a grant to the department for $174,493 — 95 percent of the cost to upgrade the SCBA packs and acquire an air compressor. Schalow said the department is paying for the remaining 5 percent, or $9,183.

He said the purchases are necessary and will improve the department's firefighting capabilities.

As for the packs, the current ones operate at 2,216 psi, or pounds per square inch. Schalow said that enables a firefighter to engage in a "battle" — or firefighting activities — for about 20 minutes.

The new ones are Interspiro S7s, which operate at 4,500 psi. Schalow said they should enable a firefighter to battle for about 30 minutes.

Interspiro is a business based in Pleasant Prairie.

"These are the newest ones the company is coming out with," he said.

But Schalow didn't pick them himself.

"We had four different pack manufactures come in and show what they had to our membership," he said. "They (voted on) what they liked. They rated each one and chose these."

Schalow said the S7s aren't available until Jan. 1, 2011. Shortly after, he expects them to be in service.

"Of the 27 packs that we're getting, four of them are going to be used for training exercises," he said. "So, when department members go to school, they won't have to pull one of the packs out of a truck."

Schalow said the S7s should last about 10 to 15 years.

Tamillo said the Bauer Unicus II compressor, which cost about $40,872 from Jefferson Fire and Safety, Middleton, was received Monday.

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