Fire Chief Roger Hollander (right) looks at his Deputy Chief Brandon Bougie, who is wearing the new self contained breathing apparatus and mask that the fire hall is being equipped with. Tara Sprickerhoff photo.

Fire Rescue updates equipment

New breathing tanks, infrared cameras

100 Mile House Fire Rescue is celebrating the arrival of new equipment.

The fire department received 20 new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) along with matching masks — three of which are equipped with infrared technology — as part of the District’s procurement plan.

An SCBA is one of the “most vital pieces of equipment a fire department can own,” says Fire Chief Roger Hollander.

“It allows us to breathe clean air in areas that are dangerous to our personnel so we can go into smoky environments,” he says.

The tanks hold compressed air, not oxygen, says Hollander, and can be upgraded throughout their lifespan to meet updated safety requirements.

The units they are replacing are approaching 20 years, says Hollander.

“We’re improving on 20-year-old technology so this is the latest and greatest with self-contained breathing apparatuses, so now we’re able to meet National Fire Protection Association standards,” he says. The older tanks had been upgraded throughout the years to meet safety standards

“We’ve been doing general upgrades and then this is a new upgrade and full replacement. The longer you go, the more you fall behind in standards so this will probably be around for the next 20 years and we’ll be upgrading along the way,” says Hollander.

The biggest difference between the old and the new packs is the amount of air they contain.

The old SCBAs had a 30-minute time limit, while the new tanks are rated at 45 minutes.

“This will allow us to have a little more working time in a dangerous environment for people to breathe more air for a longer period,” says Hollander.

Additionally, an alarm on the new tanks will alert firefighters as to when they are down to a third of a tank. The older SCBAs alerted firefighters when they were at a quarter full.

“This allows for our firefighters to have more time to escape a dangerous area. If they need to escape the alarm will sound off sooner on these new SCBAs, so it’s safer for our firefighters and it’s safer for our customers, the public, as well.”

The equipment weighs approximately 25 pounds. Alongside the other gear that firefighters wear, they add about 50 pounds to their normal weight, says Hollander.

Firefighters shouldn’t notice much of a difference in terms of weight, however, instead, due to the slimmer design of the cylinder, they may actually see more ease of movement, according to Hollander.

While everyone on the team will be outfitted with the new SCBAs and masks, three of the masks have an additional upgrade as well.

The masks, destined towards officers, come with a thermal imaging camera mounted inside the mask.

“Normally we have a handheld imaging camera,” says Hollander. “This is the first one that is an actual hands-free mounted on the mask now, so when you turn it on…. the person that is wearing it can just look down on that screen and it projects the image, so where ever they look they are picking up the heat signature.”

Hollander says that the department will be procuring an additional mask with the camera yearly in the coming years.

“That’s a big plus and a big upgrade for us that allows us to find the fire sooner, it allows us to find humans, people occupants inside the buildings in the complete dark and smoke conditions,” he says.

“We’re really excited about that.”

Before, most thermal imaging cameras were hand held.

Additionally, the masks include voice amplifiers, which allow for better communication on the ground.

“Communication is big on the fire ground and it’s difficult to hear through a mask on the radio so this amplifier now allows us clear communication so that will amplify the person’s voice and people outside can hear on the radio a lot clearer,” says Hollander. “So [it goes] back to safety and making it safer for the firefighters inside the building.”

Before the equipment can be used in a fire, firefighters will need to be trained, says Hollander. The air compressor at the Fire Hall will also need replacing.

Once the SCBAs are ready to go, the fire trucks will be outfitted on seats and in side cabinets with them so firefighters can put them on on the way to the fire or on scene. Hollander says they should be ready to go within the next week or so.

The older SCBAs will be moved to the fire training centre to be used in practice scenarios, replacing older equipment that is in use there, says Hollander.

“The biggest thing is the safety. We change them out not just because it’s new and shiny, it’s for a reason. The biggest upgrade is the higher pressure and the longer airtime which of course makes it safer for our firefighters and the other thing of course, with the thermal imaging camera, we’re able to search for occupants in houses and for anybody in particular that’s in a dangerous environment.”

Hollander invites anyone who is interested in the new equipment or who wants to see how the fire hall works to stop by for a tour.

“We always encourage any of the public, if they want to come for a tour, come in and see what we do. Your tax dollars are paying for this equipment so I think it’s important for people to know it is going to good causes.”

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