Catoosa County recently approved its fire chief’s request to go out to bid on new turn-out gear and breathing equipment for the department.
During the Board of Commissioner’s meeting on Nov. 20, Fire Chief Randy Camp expressed the department’s need for inventory upgrades in both safety gear and breathing apparatuses.
As far as the turn-out gear goes, Camp is looking to stock up on two year’s worth of equipment for a potentially discounted price.
“We’re asking to go out for approval for 30 sets of gear — 15 sets for 2018 and 15 sets for the 2019 budget allotment,” Camp said. “This will come out of SPLOST funds. This will be the complete sets — coats, boots, helmets, hoods, boots and gloves. We feel like we should get a lower price buying 30 sets versus 15.”
While prices will vary depending on the bids received, full sets of turn-out gear can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,500 per set depending on the brand and quality.
Camp added that his department was a little late in asking to go to bid on the gear because his staff spent considerable time doing its due diligence researching what they wanted to include in the bid specifications.
“We wanted to demo several sets, which we did during the year to come up with good specifications,” Camp said.
Before the vote took place, Commissioner Jim Cutler inquired about the lifespan the gear.
“Some of our firefighters can go through a set of gear in about three years, but it depends on activity levels, and how hard they work. Really, a set of gear should last five years if you have really active firefighters. We’re trying to get on a budget so we can buy 15 sets per year and rotate them out. Each firefighter has two sets.”
The board unanimously approved the request, as well as the request to secure bids for 50 new self-contained breathing apparatuses.
“Currently, our department has 83 air packs,” Camp said. “With the purchase of the 50, we would be able to replace some very aging cylinders. We have eight in our current inventory that are 31 years old.”
Camp says the department purchased eight packs in 1988, two in 1995, 13 in 1996, 17 in 1997, and 2 in 1999.
With all the new equipment, Camp says the plan would be to put the new ones into the field and use some of the current packs for training and as spares.
“We would have 59 total on all the trucks,” Camp said. “Fifty of those would be new, and all the other BAs (breathing apparatuses) would be somewhere between 10 and 15 years old.”
Another need for upgrades is due to the fact that it’s becoming harder to repair older tanks if they have need work. Camp said some of the older tanks are actually becoming obsolete because the parts to repair them aren’t being manufactured anymore.
“I know this is a big purchase all at one time, but we should see a pretty good savings compared to buying one or two at a time versus buying this many,” Camp said.