Valle fire department<br>equipment proves costly<br>

The dollar just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to ... even compared to last year. The Valle-Wood Volunteer Fire Department found that out in recent weeks as it purchased badly-needed equipment with money obtained through a federal grant.

A few years ago, the $62,479 grant would have purchased quite a few more items than today. With discontinued products and price increases, the fire department had to make decisions on what to buy.

“We applied in April 2002 and in order to get figures for the equipment costs, we called several different companies and got quotes from them,” Valle-Wood VFD board president Roger Miller said. “When we received notice of the grant award (in October 2002), we started contacting suppliers and checked on stuff.

“We found a number of items originally quoted were no longer available,” he added. “Some dropped the items from their product lines and there were some price increases.”

Make no mistake, the volunteer organization that responds to emergencies in the Valle area will enjoy its new purchases.

“We’ll be more in line with NFPA (National Fire Protection Association),” Valle-Wood VFD fire chief Larry Doering said. “They have guidelines and standards for all fire departments ... the SCBAs will be completely updated to the new standards.”

In a way, the situation prohibited the fire department from buying obsolete equipment. The NFPA implemented its new standards in March, so now Valle will have the latest available.

Eight SCBAs, or self-contained breathing apparatus units, and 10 sets of turnouts cost around $43,500, Miller said. The SCBAs will include 4,500-pound bottles, larger than the current 2,216-pound bottles. Miller said the new SCBAs were needed “because of the distance we have to travel from the fire station” for emergencies.

The department currently has only seven volunteers on its roster, but wanted a few extra for the future.

“We need to have the newer equipment for anybody else that would show up,” Doering said. “Of course, it’s a crap shoot to get the right size for them. But we’re going to order those anyway. Plus, we’ll keep the better of our older gear on hand.”

Turnouts includes items firefighters would wear into a structure fire. That includes coat, pants, boots, gloves, helmets and face shields.

The department also needed a new compressor and cascade system to fill the SCBAs, and a new power plant and hydraulic spreader, which many refer to as the “Jaws of Life.” Those two items added another $20,500 to the bill.

The “Jaws of Life” is an important addition to the department’s equipment. Just last week, such a tool was necessary to extricate victims from a fatal head-on collision one mile south of Valle.

“We will be able to operate two tools simultaneously instead of using the old method like we do now,” Doering said. “It cuts down on the time to get the victim out.”

The department received $56,232 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant. The other $6,247, which was a 10-percent match to receive the grant, was raised by the department. The Valle-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce donated $2,710, the IMAX Theater donated $2,300 through the showing of a special film for two nights and the rest came in through fund-raisers and an anonymous donation.

According to grant guidelines, the money had to be used for personal safety equipment.

For those good at math, it’s easy to see all of that new equipment comes out to a grand total of approximately $64,000. Yes, that’s over budget, and Miller said the $1,500 difference will be covered with more fund-raisers.

Miller was hoping the original award would be increased based on the new quotes.

“We worked with a grant coordinator on that and it appeared we would be able to get added funds to make up the difference,” Miller said. “Then they changed grant coordinators on us and we had to go back through the whole process again. We weren’t able to get the added money.”

The fire department then had to submit an amendment so it could order less equipment than what was itemized on the original proposal. Miller recently received confirmation from FEMA that will allow the change, but the department will still have to come up with another $1,500 on its own to cover costs.

Miller said that with the timing of the release of funds by FEMA, the new equipment should be coming in around Nov. 1, with the hydraulic spreaders taking a few weeks longer.

The Valle-Wood VFD’s coverage area runs for 20 miles north and south on State Route 64 and 20 miles east on U.S. 180. Calls have been down this year.

The department still has other needs, primarily with its vehicle fleet. A 1973 International serves as the department’s wildland fire truck and there have been problems with it. Doering said the next big purchase would probably be a truck.

Doering once again wanted to thank everyone who donated money and assisted the department with reaching the match.

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