Sherman Fire-Rescue may soon have new equipment when fighting fires. The City Council unanimously approved a request by the department to apply for a $315,000 grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 105 new sets of personal protective equipment.
With the application, the department is attempting to get ahead of an expected federal mandate that will require departments to have two sets of equipment for each firefighter.
“Essentially, the guidelines for fire departments are moving in the direction of requiring more personal protective equipment for firefighters,” Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said. “This essentially requires them to have two sets for every firefighter so that if they were covered in any carcinogen, they would have a second set while their main set is cleaned.”
The grant will cover about 90 percent of the cost of the new equipment, with the city’s portion equating to about $27,000 in total.
Fire Chief Danny Jones said there has been a renewed focus on cancer in the firefighting profession. About nine types of cancer have been connected to chemicals that firefighters can be exposed to during a fire. While firefighters wear respirators, which remove some opportunities for firefighters to breathe contaminants, the chemicals can cling to their clothing, leading to exposure.
Of the 105 sets of PPE that the department plans to buy, 85 will serve as second sets for first responders. The remaining 20 sets will be used to replace sets that are expected to reach the end of useful life soon. On average, primary gear is expected to have a useful life of 5-7 years, with a maximum of 10 years, Jones said.
With this large replacement, Jones said the city will be on the path to replace a small number of equipment sets each year, with a lower annual cost.
Strauch said this grant is one of several that the department has pursued in recent years for major projects following an application for a FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Rescue grant a few years ago. With each grant the department receives, it gains traction in pursuing future grants, he added.
“Our success with that grant has led us to pursue other grant opportunities, especially ones where we feel we have a strong chance,” he said. “It is an economy of scale situation — the more success we are at getting grants, the more success it allows us to be at applying for me.”