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Bend firefighters breathe easier with new air tanks


The Bend Fire Department has been given a little extra breathing room, so to speak.

With the help of a grant, Bend firefighters are now using brand new air tanks called self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA.

For many firefighters, this device could make a difference between life and death.

“It’s a supply of air that allows us to operate in an environment that would be too hot, or products of combustion that are poisonous to us,” said Bend Fire Capt. Tom Edwards said Tuesday.

Thanks to a $420,000 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant, the Fire Department was able to purchase 60 new SCBAs.

These new air tanks will last about 25 minutes and will alert firefighters about three minutes before they need to be refilled.

But its not as easy as “hoist and go.”

“We ran all of our firefighters through an SCBA confidence course to get familiar with wearing it, so basically an overall familiarization with the product,” said fire Capt. Darren Root.

Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe said the old SCBA gear that was replaced had been deemed obsolete by National Fire Protection Association standards. Also, he said, “our compressor was over 20 years old and was showing signs of old age.”

These new tanks will also allow firefighters to share air to help their buddies breathe.

“So now we carry an additional hose, so if we need to share air with one of our fellow firefighters inside of that hostile environment, we can simply pull that hose out and we can share air,” said Root.

The new SCBAs also allow firefighters to breathe easier in modern homes that are filled with plastic, as compared to classic homes built in the 1950s that typically had wood furnishings

“Building products are becoming more toxic when they burn they give off carcinogenic fumes,” Root said. “So bringing our own air in to a hostile environment is beneficial for our health long-term.”

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