flag image

Wakefield Fire Department seeking new members

Funds to purchase gear-cleaning equipment also needed

WAKEFIELD FIRE DEPARTMENT was represented in the annual Wakefield Pride Day parade last Saturday by, among others, this Central States fire truck. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
May 24, 2012
WAKEFIELD — The fire department here held its annual lasagna dinner as part of the town's Pride Day event May 19. The dinner, from 5 to 7 p.m. took place in the community room at the fire station and was a fundraiser.

Money raised will be put towards the department's goal of purchasing a commercial-grade fire gear washing machine, sometimes referred to as an extractor. The cost for this much needed piece of equipment, according to Wakefield Fire Chief Todd Nason, is about $6,000. The dinner is just one of several fundraisers that will be held to raise funds for the new machine.

Currently, the department has a household-size regular washing machine to clean the gear. With a set of gear costing hundreds of dollars, it is important to keep the gear clean to prevent the material from breaking down and the gear from wearing out and needing to be replaced, thus saving a lot of money in the fire budget. But keeping gear clean can also keep firefighters healthy.

The fire equipment dealer, edarley.com offers a good description about why such a machine is a good investment. "Fire contaminants can expose firefighters to cancer-causing carcinogens and eventually weaken the gear meant to protect them. Blood and body fluids can further expose them to deadly diseases. That's why the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recommends washing soiled turnout gear immediately after exposure to fire or body fluids. The NFPA also warns against cleaning gear in homes or public laundries to avoid cross-contamination. Washer extractors properly clean turnout gear – removing contaminants and biohazards while preserving fabric integrity." The list of possible contaminants firefighters gather on their gear when responding to emergency calls is long with some obvious contaminants such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asbestos, and paint. And then there are the chemicals that are found in the dirt on their gear with names such as Ethyl benzene, Ortho xylene, Benzene, M-dichlorobenzene, and Dimethylfuran and other barely pronounceable words that are thought to be hazardous not only to the firefighters but also to the patients they come in contact with.

Understanding the limitations during the town's budget setting season, the department relies heavily on their partner association, Sanbornville Firemen's Association, to help with fundraising for needed equipment not included in the department's regular operating budget. Nason said the community has always been very supportive of the department and of the association and hopes that will once again ring true during this latest fundraising endeavor.

Members wanted

"We are not in a dire need but want people to know if they are interested in being on the department, they can stop in and get an application and talk to the members about what is involved," said Nason.

Wakefield Fire Department's roster includes men and women of varying ages and skill levels who are dedicated to serving the community, responding to much higher number of emergency calls during a year than nearly, if not all, of the departments in the area. The department staffs two full-time firefighter/EMTs seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. If public safety work was predictable, a medical call would come in and those two staff would go to the patient, provide care, take them to the hospital, return to the station, clean the ambulance, and do the paperwork before the next call came in. The unpredictable reality is that many times throughout the year, there is more than one call happening simultaneously, the calls come in 24 hours a day, and some medical calls as well as most other types of calls including fires and car accidents require as many staff to respond as are available.

As times have changed and people's lives have gotten busier, Nason said, community involvement has faded away over the years. And there is a lot of work involved in being a member of a department. Nason said the goal is to get new firefighters certified within a year. This involves, according to NH Fire Standards and Training, 212 hours of classroom and practical training. To become an EMT at the basic level, the course is 140 hours and there is a requirement of continuing education. Though it may seem daunting, the Nason said his department reimburses members for the cost of taking the courses, upon completion and schedules regular monthly trainings to help member's maintain and learn new skills. Additionally, like many "call" departments in the area, Wakefield Fire Department pays its members an hourly rate when they respond to calls. Becoming a member requires a commitment but it also means becoming part of the department that is like family, said Nason, and provides a valued service to the community.

Anyone interested in becoming a member or learning more can stop by the station during shift hours or call 522-8336.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Thanks for visiting SalmonPress.com