The oxygen tanks firefighters use to enter burning buildings or when smoke conditions outside are dangerous are essential — and North Chicago’s Fire Department is celebrating because it can finally replace its old ones.
“Our old equipment was from 2002 and it was so obsolete that we couldn’t repair it. They no longer made the parts for it,” Fire Chief Dell Urban said.
This week the department announced it had obtained 30 new self-contained breathing apparatuses, a significant upgrade over the old equipment, with the help of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. They also got a new Cascade system, which refills the bottles.
“The new ones have built in safety provisions and they increase our air from 30 minutes to 45 minutes so we have more time for search and recovery,” Urban said.
They will also have emergency oxygen bottles for when a firefighter gets trapped inside a structure that gives rescuers 60 minutes of air time.
The equipment cost $195,000. The federal share is 90 percent or $175,500, while the city has to cover 10 percent of the cost or $19,500. The North Chicago City Council approved its share last week.
The grant money came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, administered by FEMA in cooperation with the department’s United States Fire Administration.
Each breathing apparatus bought with the grant money will include a high-pressure, 45-minute air bottle, breathing regulator, frame, harness, full face piece, and a spare bottle. The new equipment is expected to have a 10-year service life.