For the Seaside Fire Department, the third time’s a charm.
Chief Joey Daniels and Seaside Fire and Rescue were awarded $151,600 to buy self-contained breathing apparatus essential for indoor firefighting. “These are lifesaving pieces of equipment,” Daniels said.
Seaside will match a little more than $7,000 of U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds, for a federal share just above $144,000.
Daniels said he’d sought the funds each of the last three years, as aging, unusable or obsolete equipment limited the number of air packs available for the 35-member Seaside volunteer staff.
The fire department asked voters for a levy to help meet critical safety needs, including the apparatus.
In May, Seaside voters overwhelming endorsed Local Option 4-186, approving $2 million over five years for fire equipment and personnel, including self-contained breathing apparatus, a new ladder truck and funding for the department’s training and safety officer.
The federal grant, meanwhile, was approved only days after the election.
Within the last five years, Daniels said he has noticed major issues with the current apparatus. “We’re always fixing them,” Daniels said. “If you went out there right now, there are six hanging out there on the wall, out of service.”
Tanks must be tested every five years, with a 15-year life before they must be thrown away. All 32 tanks owned by the department are up for disposal next year. “You’re not going interior without them,” Daniels said. “That’s our air.”
While levy funds are not available until November 2018, the grant, available immediately, gives the fire department a head start.
One package includes back-assembly, high-pressure cylinder and a face mask and sells for about $6,500 to $7,200 each. The Department of Homeland Security grants a slightly lower cost allowance, capping their participation at $6,200 per unit. Seaside will make up the difference through the department’s budget, Daniels said.
Ideally, every firefighter in Seaside will have access to a pack, with spares, he said. Daniels said he hopes to ultimately have 45 packs to meet the needs of a full roster. But even with the grant funds, “we’re still probably going to be short,” he said.
Funds from the May levy will help meet shortfalls, along with extra parts, facepieces and training.
The department plans to narrow suppliers down to two companies in July, followed by demonstrations of test equipment in simulated situations. Final selection will be made by a committee of eight firefighters.
Daniels said he received grant-writing assistance from Chief Jeff Golightly of the Lewis and Clark Fire District, who won a similar grant last year. Daniels said he hopes that other county departments receive items on their wish lists.
“Everything that we get or they get benefits our county as a whole,” he said.