New Albany Gazette

NAFD grant will help clean firefighters’ gear

By Hank Wiesner Special to the Gazette
NEW ALBANY —The New Albany Fire Department recently received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant of $35,500, Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said this week.

“This is a grant for the health and safety of our firefighters. We’re just proud and grateful for the assistance to help make our fire department a healthier and safer place for our dedicated staff,” Chief Whiteside said.

The grant is for a gear extractor washer and drying cabinet.  

“The machine should clean firefighters’ gear, limit firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens, and also extend the life of the fire gear. 

“Also, let's say our crews are out in a heavy rain or the gear just gets wet. Before, we would have to hang the gear for a couple of days and let it air dry. Now we can put it in the drying cabinet and have it dry and ready to use within three hours. 

“This will also assist with prevention of mold and mildew. There are many benefits of this added equipment. Let me say that with the costs of our firefighting gear reaching $3,000 plus, it won’t take long to see the benefits.

“Also, If we can keep one person from contracting cancer-causing carcinogens or a similar dreaded disease, obtaining this machine will have been well worth our time,” the chief said.

The city built an isolation room when it built an addition to Station Number 2, and that’s where the new equipment will be located. That way, up to six sets of gear and turnout equipment can be cleaned without cross-contaminating other equipment, and the gear can be dried and back in service within three hours, he said.

“This, coupled with the city’s naming a Fire Department risk reduction officer, shows the city’s commitment to risk reduction, and keeping as safe and healthy a department as possible.

“We use the old saying, ‘lead, follow, or get out of the way.’ The city has chosen to lead, and we certainly appreciate that,” Chief Whiteside said.    

The city’s part of the grant was five percent, or $1,690.48. The balance of the federal grant came through FEMA. 

“We appreciate our local legislators — U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, U. S. Sen. Roger Wicker and U. S. Rep. Trent Kelly — writing letters of support for this grant, which makes best use of our local taxpayers’ funds on the local, state, and national level. We especially appreciate all Rep. Kelly does for the Fire Service.  

“We had been using a donated residential washing machine and hanging the gear up to air dry for several days to perform these tasks. We’re happy to be able to retire this old, inefficient, and outdated equipment once this new equipment is ordered, shipped, and installed. We have already been in touch with several vendors for pricing, quality, warranty, and availability,” the chief said.