Springfield (OR) Buys New Fire Equipment

Springfield Fire and Life Safety will spend more than $300,000 on new radios and breathing apparatus as its merger with the Eugene Fire Department enters the home stretch.

The City Council approved last week making adjustments to the current budget that included spending requests for the new equipment. At the same meeting, the council approved a contract to purchase the breathing apparatus from SeaWestern Inc. of Kirkland (WA).

Fire Chief Randy Groves said the old equipment was near the end of its useful life and would need to be replaced next year. Making the purchases now will save money and ensure firefighters for the two departments are using the same equipment.

The department bought the breathing apparatus, used when firefighters enter burning buildings, in 2004. It purchased the radios in 2005. Each has a life ­span of eight to 10 years, according to a staff report.

The old equipment will be sold as surplus, although components of the breathing apparatus that can still be used will be retained.

In July 2010, the two departments began merging in an effort to curb cost increases while still ensuring rapid emergency response. Most of cost benefits came from shedding administrative jobs that became redundant with the merger.

Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg said during her annual State of the City address last week that the merger would save the two cities a total of $1.5 million annually, compared with what the two cities would have spent without merging. The two departments’ combined budget this year is $49.8 million — with $36.9 million coming from taxes and $11.9 million from fees. The combined operations also receive other smaller amounts of funding.

Operationally, the merger will be completed on July 1, when Eugene and Springfield firefighters will work shifts at fire stations in both cities, regardless of their location; Eugene firefighters can be stationed in Springfield, and vice versa.

Currently, Eugene and Springfield firefighters are assigned to stations in their respective cities, although they’ll respond to calls in the neighboring city.

Eugene in 2011 and 2013 purchased the portable radios and breathing apparatus, respectively, that Springfield will now buy.

Groves explained that the breathing apparatus must be shipped to the city by Feb. 28 or a new standard will take effect. Changes to equipment under the incoming standard means firefighters would spend less time in a building before an alarm sounded telling them it’s time to leave.

Groves said holding to the current standard does not jeopardize firefighter safety because firefighters are regularly rotated in and out of a building and are trained extensively to make their compressed air last as long as possible.

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