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Tanks for (mostly) nothing

Grants fund firefighter gear, tornado sirens

Springfield Township Fire Chief Charlie Oaks and Sgt. 2 Matt Strickland, right, show off a new tracker unit to Supervisor Mike Trout. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
January 05, 2011 - Springfield Township firefighters can breathe easier, thanks to a federal grant.

The township bought 20 new air-tank systems, each with mask and extra tank, with a $114,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The township's share was 5 percent, $5,700.

"I think they're great," said Sgt. 2 Matt Strickland, Spingfield Township Fire Department. "It's nice to have good packs with better technology."

The Scott Rit-Pak II, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus systems replace packs purchased over the years from four manufacturers. A shortage of masks also meant firefighters had to share them. With the grant purchase, each of the department's 31 firefighters has their own mask.

"They're used anytime there might be a contaminated atmosphere or suspected contamination," said Chief Charlie Oaks. "In the old days, you'd go in holding your breath as long as you could, then run out, or use a carbon canister."

Oaks applied for the grant in 2009.

"He applies for them every year he does a great job, working to identify needs," said township Supervisor Mike Trout. "The breathing devices are amazing. It's great to have this stuff."

Each air pack has a transmitter, sending a signal to a tracking device monitored by RIT firefighters, Rapid Intervention Team. If firefighters get in trouble inside a burning building, the transmitter automatically sends a signal, and the team can use the tracker to find them.

"It's state of the art," Trout said.

The new air tanks can hold more air, 45 minutes of it versus the old tanks' 30-minute supply.

With the grant, the department also purchased two packs equipped with a second mask, for if a firefighter's mask is damaged or out of air, or to rescue a victim inside a burning building.

Firefighters will be trained and ready to use the new packs within a couple weeks, Oaks said.

"We're really committed to firefighter safety and serving residents," Trout said. "This is a real value to the township."

"It's federal tax money we all pay for it," Oaks said. "But if our community doesn't get it, someone else's will."

The township also purchased three new tornado sirens, using another grant for $75,000. Oakland County paid the five-percent local share, Trout said.

"No cost to Springfield Township," he said.

The new sirens, installed at Ormond and Shaffer roads, Knox and Bridge Lake roads, and Melissa Lane and Rattalee Lake Road, brings the township's total to eight. They should be operational by next month.

"We're covered pretty well," Trout said.

"They help fill in the rest of the township," Oaks said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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