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Santa Barbara Firefighters to Receive $591,000 DHS Grant

City department will use the federal funding to buy new breathing apparatus packs

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department will receive new breathing apparatus packs to help crews do their jobs.

"This truly is a career event for the current firefighters," Battalion Chief Mike De Ponce said. "It's a pretty amazing opportunity to truly get state-of-the-art equipment that will provide the top safety features for our Fire Department."

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday is expected to accept a $591,311 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to purchase 85 self-contained breathing apparatus packs.

The packs contain face masks, spare cylinders, voice amplifiers and in-seat mounting brackets. The packs are to firefighters what SCUBA tanks are to divers; they allow the firefighters to breathe when fighting fires, entering hazardous material zones and many other situations firefighters encounter.

"Firefighters were getting killed or hurt by staying in the building, and they didn't have enough air to extricate themselves from the environment," De Ponce said. "These packs would give us additional time to get out of whatever environment we were in."

De Ponce said the packs are typically updated once a decade, but the Fire Department has not had new packs in more than 20 years.

The previous packs would alert firefighters through a vibration when they were down to 25 percent of their air; the new containers alert firefighters when they are at 33 percent and are color-coded so the firefighters also get a visual update.

The new packs will bring the Fire Department into compliance with current Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, which recently changed.

"The department is very pleased to received the grant for the extra protection and new equipment," administrative services manager Ronald Liechti said, adding that it is the largest grant in the Fire Department's history.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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