SHFAD equipment purchases on move after bond passage

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District Board of Directors last week decided to join the Houston-Galveston Area Council in a purchasing contract for new self-contained breathing apparatus equipment.

Facing a deadline to replace the packs before the district’s existing equipment loses its certification, the board needed to take quick action and met in an emergency session, said Fire Chief Dave Barringer.

The board decided on Friday, Oct. 6, to order 40 full sets of SCBA gear from Mine Safety Appliances, which manufactures exactly what the district is after, Barringer said.

“We were holding off purchasing SCBAs, waiting for a grant,” Barringer said. If the district were going to win a grant, “we would know by now. We’re in the end stages.”

The SCBA equipment, along with new rescue tools, which have been purchased, was one of the district’s two top priorities for equipment, Barringer said. While it had hoped to purchase the gear with a grant, a six-year $1.575 million bond approved by voters in May 2016 will cover the cost.

The new SCBA equipment will cost $266,720. The gear will include new wireless telemetry systems that will transfer information to the command station.

“Currently, we have to notify what our air is at,” said Lt. Zach Lincoln. “With this system, it’s just going to be a live feed.”

Barringer said the district went with MSA, one of two major manufacturers, for a couple of reasons.

“We have MSA packs now,” he said. “They operate very similarly.”

It’s sort of like Apple and Android phones, Barringer said. Sweet Home is familiar with the equipment. It’s also used by most other districts in the area, which means the equipment is interchangeable.

The equipment is “plug and play,” he said.

The first of the district’s equipment reaches its official end of life on Dec. 31 when its certification lapses, Barringer said. Certification is good for 15 years.

MSA told the district that if it waited too much longer to order, the new SCBA gear wouldn’t get to Sweet Home in time, he said.

The district has 19 bottles that can be made compliant and certified for an additional four years, he said. The district will keep 10 of those. The remaining nine will be given to other districts.

Barringer had been looking for savings on the SCBA equipment, along with other equipment included in the bond, he said, but SCBA is the most important piece of equipment firefighters have.

“I’m not going to nickel and dime it,” he said. “I was trying to get it in the $200,000 range. This one I haven’t been able to come in under our estimate – we’re at our estimate.”

Barringer expects delivery of the equipment in December.

To take advantage of the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s open contract with MSA, Barringer said, the district must join the group, which is open to departments in Washington, Oregon and parts of California. The group is essentially a purchasing cooperative.

“It’s more than just SCBAs,” Barringer said. “They do a whole bunch of stuff. They’re a large purchaser.”

Voting to join the Houston-Galveston Area Council and to purchase SCBA gear were Don Hopkins, President Dawn Mitchell, Tim Geil, Larry Johnson and Charlene Adams.

Looking forward, the district’s new 3,000-gallon water tender is behind schedule, but its new ambulance is nearly ready to pick up. Capt. Ron Carter will soon head for Ohio to bring the ambulance back to Sweet Home.

Barringer expects it to arrive around Oct. 23. The new ambulance uses a new chassis with a remounted box. It will take another 30 to 45 days of preparation, including radio installation and stickers, to put into service.

The tank for the district’s new water tender, under construction by Ochoco Manufacturing Corporation in Prineville, is built, Barringer said. The chassis, a surplus National Guard vehicle, is being adapted for the tank.

The district expected delivery in July initially, but the company has been swamped with extra work, Barringer said. “They’re a good company, and they’re doing a lot of extra business they didn’t used to do.”

The district has accepted a bid for a chassis to replace its light-duty rescue vehicle, a 1993 Ford called Rescue 25.

Mohawk Fire District gave Sweet Home a rescue box, Barringer said. Hughes Fire of Springfield will mount the box on the new chassis and install equipment. The four-wheel-drive unit will cost less than $120,000.

By comparison, Barringer said. Keizer Fire District just replaced a rescue unit for $217,000 with a new chassis and used box. He noted that the comparison may not be perfect because the rescue units may be a little different.

The Sweet Home district will continue to use Rescue 21, the orange engine, for the next decade as a heavy rescue unit. Fire officials had been debating whether to keep or replace Rescue 21 as well as th eolder Rescue 25.

Rescue 21 will receive new doors using bond money, Barringer said. The existing doors swing outward, and they can pop open on their own. The new doors will roll up.

Rescue 25 has been a significant problem for the district for years.

The vehicle is overweight, and its electrical system is insufficient to properly run the vehicle, he said.

The district is considering a $110,000 bid from Hughes Fire to replace the battalion chiefs’ brush rig, Barringer said.

The Foster Station addition is in the drawing phase, he said. The project will provide a new bay to park the apparatus based there. The district is shooting to break ground in the spring, and then it will start the process for remodeling the firefighters’ living quarters.