Nearly all of the firefighters are old veterans of the Scott Air Packs, but they still had things to learn because the Elizabethton City Council voted this year to replace the department’s 20-year-old air packs with the newest models.
“There have been a lot of technological improvements over the past 20 years,” Fire Chief Barry Carrier said. One of the ones that stands out to an untrained person is the bottles that contained the compressed air. The department’s old bottles were made of steel. The new ones are a composite material and hold twice as much air pressure.
The harnesses and various appliances have also had significant improvements over the past several years.
The training was conducted by Tom Bottoms and Tim Jenkins of Municipal Emergency Services, a national company that sells and services the Scott Air Packs.
Carrier said that in this modern age, most homes contain lots of material that produces highly toxic smoke. This smoke comes not just from the materials used to build the home, but from such things as furniture. The air packs have become the firefighter’s first line of defense.
“It has been shown that firefighters have a high cancer rate,” Carrier said. “We need to protect them from these toxic chemicals.
“I really appreciate our city manager and city staff stepping up during our last budget cycle for making the recommendations and I appreciate our City Council for voting for it, they don’t come cheap.
Carrier said the air packs cost $7,100 each and the city purchased 30 of them, for a total of $213,0000.
The air packs will soon be coming into regular use with the fire department. Some of the old air packs will be retained for training. Carrier said the rest may be sold to recover some of the costs the city invested in the new packs.