GFD receives $35,000 Homeland Security grant


April 06, 2011
GORHAM — Upgrade equipment and training. That's what Gorham Fire Department plans to do with more than $35,000 in grant money they are receiving from the Department of Homeland Security.

Three times turned out to be the charm for the Gorham Department as this was the third year they applied for the grant according to Chief Rick Eichler. Less than half of the money will go toward the purchase of a washer-extractor designed specifically to clean turn-out gear, and a gear dryer. The bulk of the funds will be used to train the existing firefighters who are certified as Level I FF, for Level II FF certification.

Eichler said that each year he applied for the Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant, he has tweaked the application and this year he added the training component and was successful. He noted that the cost to train the call department's 15 Level I fire fighters up to Level II is anticipated to cost around $24,000. The Level II training will build on the basic firefighting skills to include advanced firefighting and introductions to technical rescues, Eichler said. Technical rescues include rope rescues, collapsed buildings, moving objects and motor vehicle extrications, the chief explained.

The department now boasts 7 Level II firefighters and two Level III firefighters trained in advanced rescue techniques.

While the training will be a boon to the department, the equipment purchase will make life easier on a day-to-day basis for the members Eichler said. With just a regular household washing machine now employed to clean the firefighters' protective turnout gear, cleaning up after a fire can take weeks. Only half of one set of gear can be washed at a time and then the gear can take two days to dry. All 45 firefighters have their own set of gear making it a very time consuming proposition.

Eichler said that in order to maintain safety standards and prolong the life of the gear, it must be cleaned after fires. It's a practical matter too, he said, as the gear is often wet, dirty and can be contaminated with toxic chemicals produced by burning material after a call. According to the manufacturer recommendations, turnout gear, even when not used, must be washed at least once a year, Eichler explained.

In contrast to the washing machine now employed by the department, a commercial washer-extractor can clean four full sets of gear at a time. The machine spins at a much higher centrifugal speed in order to extract as much water as possible from the heavy gear and therefore works more efficiently to decrease drying time. Paired with a special drying rack designed for turnout gear — gear is hung on the rack which blows warm air through holes in the tubes — cleaning time is reduced to 24 hours for every four sets of gear. Turnout gear which has an interior Nomex liner that loses its protective quality if exposed to high heat from the inside, necessitating either air drying or this special machine.

Eichler said he is in the process of getting quotes for these machines and expects to make his purchase by the end of the summer. The anticipated cost of around $13,000 for both machines combined includes five percent in matching funds from the department, which Eichler said is already in his budget from the money he budgeted to replace the faltering washing machine the department has now.

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