New equipment at fire department aids safety

By Karen La Pierre
Ellinwood Leader – March 31, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – April 24, 2017

The Ellinwood Fire Department has received grants that will greatly increase the safety of firefighters. Interim City Administrator/Fire Chief Chris Komarek wrote the grants.

The department received $23,850 for a compressor to fill air packs from the Department of Homeland Security. The city provided a five-percent match.

Prior to receiving the compressor, the department drove over to the Great Bend Fire Department to fill large cylinders, and then returned to Ellinwood to fill the individual air packs.

The large cylinders weigh in the neighborhood of 2,000 pounds, making them heavy and problematic to load. It also took a significant amount of time.

A special air compressor is required to produce 6,000 psi and provide a specialized air filtering system.

“Our biggest concern though was that, after a fire, we would have to fill quite a few of the smaller cylinders,” Komarek said. “There was only enough air pressure to fill six, meaning we sometimes had air packs that were less than full.

“This could have led to a situation where a firefighter may not have been able to do the job that needed to be done at the scene of a fire due to lack of air. It could have been a life or death situation for the firefighter or victim of a fire.”

Now, the department will run with full air packs every time, Komarek said.

“We can also do more training now with the air pack using actual air and not have to worry about having an air supply,” he said. “I’m really excited to have this.”

The department also received a grant from the Kansas Fire Marshal for $10,000 to purchase an industrial washer/extractor. Only five departments received this grant.

“The fire service is really starting to pay more attention to the hidden health hazards in the fire service,” Komarek said. “The risk for cancer is huge for firefighters.”

“There are so many carcinogens that firefighters are exposed to during a fire which gets into the gear we wear.”

The toxins stay in the gear until it is washed. The department would rinse off the gear with a garden hose, but Komarek said the toxins would stay in the gear.

Taking good care of the gear is also an issue as it costs $2,000 per set. Now, the firefighter’s gear is clean every time it is worn.

“Every time the firefighter would put on his gear, he would be exposing himself again and this would happen over and over,” Komarek said.

The gear must be cleaned in a special way that includes only warm water with low-spin speeds and special detergent.

“I’m very excited to have this washer available to keep our gear clean,” Komarek said. “The department’s biggest asset is our firefighters and we need to take care of them and keep them safe.”

One requirement from the KSFM was that the machine be available to other departments in the area.

“We feel this is a great idea and have already informed area departments that the machine is available for them to use anytime,” Komarek said. “I really want to thank the Fire Marshal’s Office for this award.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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