BY TODD BOWMAN
WILLIAMSPORT, Maryland – With the increased incidents of cancer in the fire service, likely related to exposure to burning plastics and other toxins. County paramedics will pilot a vehicle that will “totally encapsulate” turnout gear and get it away from the operators compartment.
“The new model will be a pick-up truck with a (utility-like) bed that will allow for the paramedic to have his/her turnout gear totally encapsulated in the cargo bed,” Director of Washington County Division of Emergency Service R. David Hays said.
Our primary mission remains to aid in advanced life support care within the county and the unit will continue to carry all the required equipment, Hays said.
Currently the division operates two SUVs- one responding from emergency service headquarters on Elliott Parkway and the second vehicle from Station 8 on Rohrersville Road, south of Boonsboro.
Hays added that the unit stationed at Elliott Parkway will be moving to Clear Spring Fire Department starting January 1.
“We can’t take total credit for the (vehicle) idea,” Hays said. “Hagerstown Fire Department’s fire marshals are changing their vehicles over as well as other units across the state of Maryland.”
Hays also said that the division of emergency services is working with local departments on a second project.
Hays said that the protective gear that firefighters wear battling fires is expensive and many local fire departments can’t afford to have two sets of gear per qualified firefighter.
We have standards in place if personal protective equipment needs to be cleaned on the scene before it can be returned to the station or if the gear can be returned to the station and washed later, Hays said.
“The division is trying to work on a consolidated (personal protective equipment) program,” Hays said. “Each firefighter will have one set of complete gear that is NFPA 1851 compliant.”
At the time a firefighter needs to have his gear washed, a second set can be issued from a central distribution until the primary set can be returned.
“The protective firefighter attire is the most expensive gear for a firefighter, secondary to a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA),” Hays said.
Hays said that turnout gear averages $2,800-3,000.
Todd Bowman is a journalist and social media anchor. He is also a paramedic/firefighter in Western Maryland. Follow him on Twitter @todd_bowman87.