Fire department gets breath of fresh air

Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2002

The Kenai Fire Department received more than $80,000 from the federal government to get new equipment. The equipment in question -- personal protective gear -- will save lives.

At Wednesday's Kenai City Council meeting, the council approved the appropriation of $82,800 from a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to purchase 16 new personal breathing apparatuses and 32 new portable oxygen tanks that go with them that are used for entering smoke-filled buildings. The new equipment will replace Scott Air Packs and associated equipment the fire department currently has.

"We felt pretty fortunate to get what we got," said Kenai Fire Chief Scott Walden.

He said the older models would soon become outdated and that newer ones have been designed that were not anticipated to wear as quickly.

"The older models have an obsolescent life span of about 15 years," Walden said. "The new ones are built of a carbon fiber material that doesn't corrode."

He said unless the newer units had some serious damage, he didn't expect them to become obsolete from regular use.

Mayor John Williams said the council's approval of the appropriation was a formality that all grants requested for municipal departments go through. He said the FEMA grant money had to go to the city before being appropriated.

"It's just a pass-through item," Williams said.

The grant is part of the $100 million Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement Act used to purchase volumes of items fire departments wouldn't otherwise be able to purchase. Authorized in 2000 by Congress, the grants were awarded to more than 1,850 rural, urban and suburban fire departments.

The grant applications were processed by the U.S. Fire Admini-stration and reviewed by representatives from seven fire service organizations. In each case, the federal grants will be supplemented by local funds.

Other grant categories for 2001 were vehicles, wellness and fitness programs, fire-fighting equipment, training and fire prevention programs.

"We will put a 10 percent match with (the grant)," Walden said.

Walden said the department also will use some of the funds to replace the current self-contained breathing apparatus compressor, which filters and compresses the air that refills the bottles.

Once the funds become available, the department will begin seeking bids from fire-fighting equipment merchandisers for the protective equipment.

Six members of the council voted -- council member Joe Moore was not present -- and reached a unanimous decision to approve the appropriation.

In other news from Wednes-day's meeting:

The council approved an increase of $10,000 in the general fund proposed at the Dec. 19 meeting to purchase furniture and equipment for the downstairs council office space in city hall. The space is expected to open by late January.

The council agreed to a resolution supporting the efforts of the Kenai River Council on the Arts to find a suitable facility for an arts center on the Kenai Peninsula.

Council member James Bookey questioned the financial ramifications of the resolution.

"Does this preclude to any financial assistance in the future?" he asked.

Council member Linda Swarner said the resolution did not bind the city to any monetary obligations, but rather a gesture that Kenai would assist in fund-raising ventures.

"This is to show the group that the city of Kenai is supporting them in their endeavors of seeking their own funding," she said.

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