HOMER — The Banks County Commission will spend less than $25,000 and receive more than $450,000 in needed new firefighting life safety equipment.
“We applied for a 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grant to replace all of our current air packs,” said Banks County Fire/EMS Chief Steve Nichols. “That’s the SCBAs as we call them. We use them to fight structure fires and all. Ours are due to go out of date in two years, and they won’t be serviceable anymore at that time.”
Nichols wanted Banks County to be proactive in replacing the expiring equipment, so that if federal AFG funding was not available for the purchase, the county could seek another way to fund the purchase.
“We were fortunate to receive the grant in a total amount of $468,500,” Nichols said. “Of course, part of that, which is 5 percent, the county will have to pay for, which is $22,310. So basically, we’re going to spend $22,000 to get $400,000. That’s a good exchange for us. It gives us the opportunity to replace all of our SCBAs and bring it all back into compliance for the next 15 or 20 years.”
Commissioner Charles Turk stressed that the county would have to replace the breathing apparatus whether or not federal funding was received, so he and others are thankful to be paying only 5 percent of the purchase price.
And the county’s public safety staff had input in the selection of the air packs that are being purchased.
Nichols said most of the county’s full-time and part-time fire and EMS personnel were able to closely examine eight different types of breathing apparatus and vote for the ones they felt would work best in the field.
“Avon, made by Delta Air, out-rated all the rest of them,” Nichols said, adding the selection was unanimous, and that the Avon units have the best warranty and lowest cost for annual testing.
But the grant purchase is not just about the masks and tanks that allow firefighters to breathe when battling fires. The price also includes 15 thermal imaging cameras to be used by firefighters to search for possible victims inside burning structures or dense smoke.
“We currently have three thermal cameras in the department, all of them old and outdated,” Nichols said. “This allows us with these new packs to get 15 additional thermal imaging cameras that we’ll place around the county strategically that will be available for us to do our job better.”
Nichols said that brings to $750,000 the amount of AFG funding received by his department in 2017.