(photo by Ken Ross)
The effectiveness of a fire department in fighting fire and making rescues, as well as the safety of fire fighters, depend in large part on the equipment they use.
Four large grants and numerous contributions from the community have enabled the Cherokee Fire Department to make over $265,000 in equipment purchases in the last three years.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided a grant in 2002 for $53,000 with which all new 45-minute self contained breathing apparatus air packs and spare bottles were purchased, replacing the old 30-minute bottles. This amount includes the 10 percent in-kind portion that the department came up with.
The old bottles could only be pressurized up to 2,250 psi while the new ones contain up to 4,500 psi. The new bottles are both smaller and last 50 percent longer.
The 45 minutes refers to normal breathing, which is not the case in fire fighting or rescue situation. As a practical matter, the bottles would likely be used up in about half an hour while the older 30-minute bottles would be used up in 20 minutes or less.
The air pack gear contains an alarm that is activated by a disruption of normal motion or by a "panic button" pressed by the firefighter, causing a piercing locator alarm to sound.
Many of the older packs and bottles were given to other departments that had a use for them.
The department received a Department of Justice Grant in 2003 for $12,654 for replacement of old equipment. This was part of a multi-purpose grant that Aimee Barritt, Cherokee County emergency management director, applied for.
The department again received a FEMA grant in 2004. This grant was for $52,428 with 10 percent in-kind raised by the department. This money was used to buy new bunker gear (helmet, boots, coat, pants and gloves) for each firefighter. Some of this equipment was getting old.
In 2004, Barritt applied for and received another DOJ grant, with the CFD receiving $11,100 of these funds. this was used to update some of the communications equipment.
An impressive upgrade of the CFD's ability to respond to disaster occurred with the purchase of a used aerial ladder truck in 2004. The price of purchasing the truck along with outfitting it with valves, hose and other equipment totaled $136,000. Money from the Alan Bushlow estate, CFD fund raising and contributions from businesses and individuals made this purchase possible.
In a press release issued by Chief Jack Olson, it was stated that "We feel these grants and donated funds have helped the department keep itself upgraded so it can provide the best safety protection to the public."