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Maple Park gets $128K grant for firefighter safety

MAPLE PARK – The Maple Park and Countryside Fire Protection District will get more than $128,000 in a federal grant to buy 22 new air packs for firefighters.

The funding is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which intends to strengthen the nation’s overall response to fire and fire-related hazards.

Fire Chief Kevin Peterson said the grant was for a little less than his application, but “I’m far from complaining.”

“Air packs are what we use when we actually go into a fire. It’s what firefighters use as a breathing apparatus, so they don’t get sick from the smoke,” Peterson said. “We do have air packs now, but ours are getting old.”

According to standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, air packs are to be discarded after 10 years of use, he said. Maple Park’s air packs are getting close to 12 years – but at $6,000 apiece, there was no money in the budget to buy new ones, Peterson said.

“Without the grant, we would not be able to purchase them,” he said.

The air packs are fitted with a bottle of air that lasts 30 minutes. It gives a warning when the bottle is half way through then another with five minutes to spare, so the firefighter has time to get out, Peterson said.

The district refills the bottles for continued use, he said.

The National Fire Protection Association also calls for firefighters to not just get a new bottle and go back into a fire, but to have rehabilitation.

Peterson said that occurs with a medical unit that checks fluids and vitals before the firefighter is cleared to go back into the fire.

“When you’ve seen a lot of different fire departments and more engine crews at a fire, that’s why,” Peterson said. “Depending on the fire, we can go through five or six different crews.”

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