By Cody Griesel
Cowley Courier Traveler – March 14, 2017
The Arkansas City Fire/EMS Department will be able to replace five sets of protective bunker gear that will soon exceed the federal age limit for safe use by firefighters.
During its regular meeting this past week, the Ark City commission approved the purchase for the five sets of protective gear at cost of $11,217.75. The gear is used inside active fires, and are some of the main protective components in a firefighter’s personal equipment.
Fire chief Bobby Wolfe said federal law requires the gear to be retired after 10 years. Some of the bunker gear — which consists of a protective jacket and pants — have been in use by the department since 2008. Wolfe said he would like to see the department replace five sets annually.
The bunker gear must be washed between fires to get rid of carcinogens that are collected while fighting a fire. The suits are bought to fit new personnel as they are hired, but new recruits often inherit older gear that is adequately sized for them.
“We try to fit everyone the best we can with what we have,” Wolfe said.
After the bunker gear reaches the 10-year mark, the Federal Fire Protection Act requires the gear to be destroyed or discarded. Wolfe said the department is not allowed to donate the items to volunteer fire departments. He added that the suits are usually well-worn by the end of the maximum service life.
The funds for that equipment will come out of the ACFD’s 2017 budget.
In a second fire-related update, city manager Nick Hernandez said staff will resume plans to purchase a new fire engine for the department. Funds for the engine were allotted in the previous budget — around $80,000 — but the commission balked at spending the money until financial matters with the South Central Kansas Medical Center were more stable.
The $80,000 would have been used to make the down payment, and the balance of the fire engine would have been paid in similar annual installments over a couple of years — earlier estimates were a three-year period.
Hernandez said that purchase is now back on the table for future consideration by the commission. No time frame was set for discussion or action, but Wolfe said during previous meetings that the city’s current fire engine had exceeded its expected service life and is due to be replaced.