And then there’d be the equipment problems which, unfortunately, aren’t all that unusual these days at Washington County’s fire companies, Clear Spring Fire Chief Mike Reid said.
At Clear Spring, the main vehicle problems include:
• A new firetruck is needed to replace the 1981 truck that was due to have been retired in 2001, according to national standards. The new one, a “bare bones” model, would cost $475,000;
• A 1983 tanker truck, vital in Clear Spring’s rural areas because it can carry 2,000 gallons of water and pump 1,000 gallons a minute from ponds and other sources, should have been replaced in 2003.
But for the third year in a row, the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the only large source of funding for fire companies — has denied Clear Spring’s request for $325,000 for a new tanker.
In the past year alone, Clear Spring has spent nearly $60,000 repairing the old tanker, including $46,000 on new frame rails to replace the corroded old ones.
• The 1995 squad truck, which carries extrication equipment, ropes and other gear for rescue work, wasn’t scheduled to be replaced until 2015.
But the truck, which is parked inside like the other vehicles, has had a lot of corrosion, turning parts of the aluminum body into a white flakiness.
“Corrosion-wise, it’s a nightmare,” Reid said. “We’re just trying to make it last because replacement on that one right now is $400,000.”
To delay that expense, the company has undertaken a two-step effort to try to keep the truck going until 2025.
Recently, $30,000 in repairs were made on some of the corrosion and a crack in the body. And another $34,000 was spent attacking the rest of the corrosion and upgrading the truck’s portable lights to LED lighting, Reid said.
The company had budgeted $20,000 but had to spend the $34,000 because the damage found was a lot worse than expected, he said.
With so many financial problems to juggle, it seemed like a saving grace this year when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded the Clear Spring company $134,520.
The money enables the company to buy 24 sets of self-contained breathing apparatus and a machine for measuring how well the breathing masks fit each firefighter’s face.
The breathing apparatus — airpacks firefighters strap on their backs and use inside burning buildings — must be replaced periodically.
How frequently they are replaced depends, in part, on the standards recommended by the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit group recognized as a nationwide authority on pubic safety, and, in part, on what fire companies can afford.
“The ones we’re using are up to 18 years old, so that’s a big problem,” Reid said.