WILLISTON, S.C. (WJBF) — Christmas came early for firefighters with the Williston Fire Department. The agency received more than 20 new Scott air packs. The current air packs are reaching the end of their shelf life.
“The carbon cylinders have a lifespan of 15 years. The air packs themselves don’t technically have a year. However, every year goes by the [Fire Protection Association] introduces new safety regulations that should need to be followed, that are recommended to be followed and we were several [National Fire Protection Association] codes behind,” Williston Fire Assistant Chief John Melton told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.
They looked into buying new ones and found they could use a federal emergency management grant to buy new gear, so they applied for it. At the end of October, they received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant for more than $176,000. “The town has generously been very supportive of us through this and they have also lent a hand in covering our share of the grant, which is roughly 5%,” Assistant Chief Melton added.
The primary goal of the grant is to “enhance the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire-related hazards by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations, and State Fire Training Academies,” according to its website. The funding is for “critically needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel to recognized standards, enhance operations efficiencies, foster interoperability, and support community resilience,” it added.
Melton says that the new units are capable of providing 45-minutes of air, compared to the older tanks that were about a half-hour. The new packs also contain advanced technology which could allow for fewer incidents.
“We have better lighting and gauges on the front and on the back that so my partner is able to monitor my air conditioning. Scott has improved clearer communication between firefighters over the radio,” Assistant Chief Melton shared.
The purchase included 25 new air pack units, 50 cylinders, 25 masks, and 25 voice amps. The new equipment is a huge leap forward for the department. The safety features are a big deal. “If we don’t have upgraded [Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus] or good SCBAs, we’re not able to make an interior attack or the rescue victims that are trapped inside. So it’s very important the air packs being top of the line and also the gear that we are using is protecting us,” he said.
The old air packs will still be used. They are going to help neighboring departments who need better technology. “We do still have some carbon cylinders that are lighter weight that can be utilized at neighboring departments who have all-aluminum cylinders,” Assistant Chief Melton added. “We plan on using that or whatever we have leftover, sending them to another County that uses older fire equipment to send overseas or to other departments that are not as fortunate, to utilize in their departments,” he also said.
Each new air pack costs approximately $9100. “It had been a long term budgetary issue that if we were to have to purchase these ourselves, it had been years down the road and this was becoming a very high priority for our department to receive new air packs.”
Officials say that firefighters are going through several weeks of training to make sure they get acclimated with their new equipment.
They hope to put the new air packs into service by the end of January 2020.