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Local News

Santa Barbara City Fire Department Shows Off New Equipment

Largest grant in organization's history pays for purchase of breathing apparatuses

Battling blazes in the city of Santa Barbara is about to become a safer, more-efficient occupation with the addition of brand-new firefighting breathing apparatuses.

The Santa Barbara City Fire Department unveiled its new expensive, donated equipment during a demonstration Thursday afternoon at its downtown training center.

Two firefighters showed off the self-contained breathing apparatus units, donning devices before entering a building filled with artificial smoke billowing from a machine.

All 85 members of the department should have the equipment within the next six to eight months, thanks to a $591,311 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The grant was the largest in department history, and the third one Homeland Security has awarded city fire in the same number of years — bringing the total to more than $1 million, according to Fire Chief Pat McElroy.

Last year, a grant funded a region-wide radio upgrade, and in 2012 the department purchased Plymovent, which captures and removes the diesel created when engines are started up below firehouse living quarters.

The latest tools allow the department to upgrade current breathing apparatuses, which are 20 years old and provide just 30 minutes of oxygen compared to 45 minutes for the new units.

Breathing apparatuses should be replaced every 10 years, said Battalion Chief Michael de Ponce, who was recognized for helping secure the grant, along with fellow grant writer Ron Liechti, the department’s administrative services manager.

A $591,311 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has allowed the Santa Barbara City Fire Department to purchase new breathing apparatuses for its firefighters. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

“It’s an absolute win-win for our firefighters,” Ponce said.

Firefighters wear the units when battling structure fires, vehicle fires, during confined space rescues and hazardous material spills, and in potential hazardous environments.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, whose office helped secure the grant, was in attendance, as well as Mayor Pro Tempore Cathy Murillo, who said she hopes firefighters don’t have to use the equipment too often.

In addition to more air time, the new apparatuses better warn firefighters when oxygen is low and emit a chirping sound when someone hasn’t moved in 30 seconds, gradually getting louder the longer a firefighter is still.

Ponce said the communication within the new mask will also be better, and might soon allow in-mask exchanges. Currently, firefighters have to pull out a radio and put it up to their mask to speak to each other.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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