Iron County fire departments receive new breathing apparatuses thanks to nearly $700,000 grant

Cedar City Firefighters doing inventory on new equipment for fire departments in Iron County, Jan. 31, 2020, Cedar City, Utah | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — New self-contained breathing apparatuses will be distributed to fire departments throughout Iron County as a result of a $684,300 Assistance to Firefighters grant.

Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips said the regional grant is funded through the Department of Homeland Security, and fire departments throughout the county worked for more than a year on the application. One SCBA pack normally costs around $6,800, but each jurisdiction only had to pay 10% of the cost of the equipment.

“Parowan got 10 packs,” Phillips said. “So Parowan got $68,000 worth of packs, they had to pay $6,800 for those packs. It’s a 10% match, so 90% from the federal government and 10% from the local departments.”

The Cedar City Fire Department is the host of the grant. The SCBAs were received on Thursday and will be distributed to other departments in the county as soon as inventory is completed. The vendor will also provide training on how to use the new equipment.

Through the grant, 99 SCBA packs were purchased. Each pack comes with two bottles that hold 45 minutes of air each.

A self-contained breathing apparatus pack and bottle that was purchased for Iron County through a federal grant, Jan. 31, 2020, Cedar City, Utah | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

“We’ve been in a 30-minute bottle, these are a 45-minute bottle,” Phillips said. “So it gives a little more time, and it actually builds a bigger safety factor into it. If a firefighter is inside and they get trapped or lost or disoriented, it gives them a longer amount of air, which helps protect them.”

In addition to holding more clean air for firefighters, the new bottles simply snap into the packs rather than requiring threading.

“They’re more efficient, and we can send somebody in and know that they have a longer supply of air,” Captain Lowell Sorensen said. “It’s a more compact design; they can move more freely, and when they come out for a bottle change, it’s going to be a faster bottle change, and they’ll be able to return to their job quicker.”

Firefighter Greg Orloski said the new SCBAs also weigh less.

“As they progress from their original steel, heavy bottles from when we first started, to their lightweight bottles, you’re not carrying as much on your back,” he said. “It burdens you when you’ve got that much weight extra and you’re working. The technology’s improved quite a bit, it enables us to do our job easier.”

Phillips added that firefighters use breathing apparatuses no matter what kind of fire they are responding to.

“These are a vital piece of equipment for our responders,” Phillips said. “This is one of those things that we use on every fire, from a vehicle fire to a house fire. We can use them in hazmat (situations), confined spaces; that’s how we protect the firefighter’s respiratory system.”

Paragonah Fire Chief Royce Barton said the smaller departments could not have afforded new equipment without the grant.

“To be able to come together and put in for a grant and to get this kind of equipment, it benefits the whole county,” Barton said. “It’s phenomenal. It’s going to help from Cedar City to Beryl to Paragonah. Us smaller groups, there’s the no way in the world we could ever have bought this kind of equipment out of our regular budget. But when we went to together as a corporation of cities, fire chiefs, it showed the government that we’re trying to work together but also what a need there was.”

Barton also said the new equipment will allow multiple departments to work together more efficiently when responding to a bigger emergency.

“When we do have something large, Paragonah, Beryl, Cedar City will all be coming in with the same type of equipment,” Barton said. “Everyone will know what the other person’s air packs are like. So as far as safety and the capability of serving the public, it’s just increased because of this (equipment).”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!