Led by Yuma Fire Department Chief Steve Irr, firefighters demonstrated the features of the new airpacks obtained by the agency to council members during the regular council worksession Tuesday evening at City Hall.
“As you know, during the last budget season, we came to you and expressed concern about our equipment,” Irr said. “Our airpacks were aging. They were going to meet the end of their service life.”
Aware the old airpacks needed to be replaced; YFD officials requested $1.2 million dollars as part of their budget for fiscal year 2014-2015. That was later augmented by a $700,000 federal grant, saving the city from paying the full price.
Irr continued. “As you know, firefighter safety is very important to me and the fire department, and the thing that we know is that 100 firefighters die each year in our nation. And predominately, line-of-duty deaths are cause by cardiovascular related illnesses, but the big silent killer is cancer. Firefighters are 1.5 more times” more likely to be diagnosed with cancer when compared to the general population, “and it is generally from the hazards of smoke. The two main hazards firefighters deal with are carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, which both lead to cancer.”
That is why wearing a SCBA in hazardous situations is extremely important, especially with the increase in synthetic materials in the modern era.
“Synthetics burn hotter, faster and contain more toxic gases,” he said, noting the new mask issued to YFD personnel can withstand heat up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The older masks that were replaced were only good up to about 500 degrees.
The masks also have built-in communication devices that allow firefighters to communicate with each other in a way that “was almost impossible years ago,” Irr said. The mask also boasts better peripheral vision and a head’s up display — “kind of like a pilot has in their helmet,” Irr noted. “They are able to see where their air levels are. What we have found over the years is that firefighters lose track of time” and run out of air. “It is very important for them to keep track of time.”
The air bottles are also larger and can supply the typical firefighter with about 25 minutes of oxygen.
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