The Martinez Fire Department is looking forward to a new year with new equipment and headquarters building.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently awarded the department $92,050 through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant to enhance its fire operations and firefighters safety programs.
According to Chief Doug Cooper, the money will be used to purchase 50 new self-contained breathing apparatus, at more than $2,600 each, to replace outdated, heavy ones.
"We are using some that are over 20 years old," Cooper said "The older ones that we have ... we are still using them. but they are spending quite a bit of time in the shop."
The department bought 10 new packs last year to begin replacing older ones. The new packs weigh in 16 pounds lighter than the 35-pound packs firefighters must currently maneuver in, said Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann, the department's training officer. The air packs, which help firefighters breathe in smoky conditions, will make it easier for firefighters to perform their duties with less weight to carry.
While waiting for air packs to arrive, firefighters will train on the department's new 95-foot ariel truck that recentlyarrived.
The 550-horsepower truck has a retractable ladder with a platform that is capable of reaching the ninth story of a building. It also boats a 2,000-gallon-per-minute pump and connectors on the platform for breathing air and water hoses, Kuhlmann said.
The truck cost the department $638,000, which did not come from grant funds.
"We have been planning for years to get it," Cooper said. "It is just something that you have to save for and plan for. Of course with the buildings getting bigger around here, our other ladder was only 55-feet. The need was great for something taller."
The hydraulic-powered platform and ladder can move in 360 degrees from the ground to 95 feet in the air, Kuhlmann said. Controls on the platform allow firefighters to maneuver it next to buildings and around power lines to rescue victims in high places or put out fires from above. Tools, water, air and equipment will be at hand for anyone on the platform, which also has brackets to hold a patient basket for high rescues.
Firefighters will begin training on the truck Tuesday.
"It is bigger than any truck we have ever had so we have safety concerns," Kuhlmann said, adding that driving the 47-foot-long truck will be more difficult than what drivers are used to.
The truck, currently housed at Station 4 on Oakley Pirkle Road will be stationed at the department's new headquarters building off Old Evans Road when it is complete in March.
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