The Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company is excited to announce, through the generosity of AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grant) process, we recently placed into service 28 new SCBA, a.k.a., Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. We also purchased outright 2 additional SCBA, for a total of 30 new units. This new equipment has updated and improved features, making them easier and more convenient to use.
The use of SCBA, which provides clean breathing air to the user, makes it possible for personnel to safely work in and around an IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life & Health) environment. We’re often called upon to work in a structure fire where we encounter the byproducts of incomplete combustion, the most dangerous of which is carbon monoxide. In most structure fires, the level of carbon monoxide is so high, the individual may be reduced to a state of unconsciousness and eventual death in just a few minutes. Sometimes, the levels are so high, unconsciousness results in a minute or less. (Hopefully, this alleviates the concern many have for people and pets that die as the result of a structure fire. Thankfully for the unfortunate victim(s) (especially pets… because of their reduced lung capacity), their level of terror and anxiety is usually short-lived.)
Another benefit we get is breathing thermally protected air. Because of our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) clothing, we can safely work in temperatures that would cause thermal burns to unprotected skin. Without the benefit of SCBA, firefighters would inhale superheated air that would quickly cause thermal burns to the respiratory system. And because of simple physics, when the compressed air is released from the cylinder for inhalation, the air is dramatically cooled. Breathing in this cooled air is refreshing to the firefighter and helps to keep them cool while working at sometimes insane levels of exertion.
The outgoing SCBA equipment still meets the standard for serviceable Personal Protective Equipment. It will be passed on, either by sale or donation, to some entity which has the need.
Our new SCBA went into service on Saturday, September 23, 2023. The first incident where they were used was the structure fire on Church Alley, on Wednesday, September 27. At that fire, they performed flawlessly for our personnel.
In addition to the AFG grant for new SCBA, etc., the Kent County Fire Chief’s Association provided us with two (2) additional RIT bags. RIT stands for “Rapid Intervention Team” As incident staffing allows, this is a group of firefighters especially prepared and equipped to react to unexpected issues and problems, especially an interior firefighter declaring a “Mayday”. A Mayday would occur in the event of an unexpected collapse where firefighter(s) are trapped, or one (or more) goes down with a medical emergency, or some other situation requiring additional help quickly. In short, they are there to rescue our own people should the unfortunate happen. If you’ve ever been a bystander at a fire, you may have noticed the RIT team, and wondered what they were doing. They’re quietly standing by, completely “geared up”, SCBA facepieces on, extra equipment at hand… waiting. If needed, they can be on the way inside, ready to act, in a matter of seconds. It’s every firefighter’s worst fear to need the assistance of the RIT team. Yet, it happens more often than we like.
The RIT bag has a large capacity breathing air cylinder and extra facepieces, along with some other useful equipment and supplies. The RIT team takes the bag with them in the event they’re needed. If there are firefighter(s) trapped because of a collapse, the expanded air supply buys time to free the trapped firefighter and get them out. Sometimes when circumstances go sideways, a firefighter’s facepiece may become dislodged and lost in the confusion. Having extra facepieces available protects against this possibility.
With the two new RIT bags added to the one we already carry; this gives us a grand total of three. That means on a large fire, the incident commander now has the flexibility… depending on available staffing to establish 3 separate RIT teams.
We would be remiss if we didn't express out gratitude to United States Senator Chris Van Hollen and Ron Benedict of Fire Grants Experts, located in Arlington Virginia. Ron wrote the grant request and submitted it, in-effect, acting as a contractor for us. Senator Van Hollen assisted with pushing the grant through to fruition.