Significant donation will help West Prince fire department purchase new gear

With a donation from the Agri-Spirit Fund from Farm Credit Canada, the O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department will be able to purchase 11 new sets of turnout gear for its members. This gear consists of the pants and jackets worn by firefighters while on the job. Turnout gear, also known as bunker gear, has a life expectancy of about 10 years.   Jillian Trainor photo

The O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department will be able to buy 11 new sets of turnout gear thanks to a donation of $25,000 from Farm Credit Canada.

Turnout gear, also called bunker gear, consists of the pants and jacket firefighters wear on the job. Other gear like balaclavas, gloves, and other gear are considered separate from this gear.

“It would take us 10 years to replace the same amount of bunker gear,” said fire chief Ron Phillips.

Captain Blair Buchanan said the department only has so much in its budget per year for new gear, so this will definitely give the crew a boost to get ahead of the game and get caught up with what they need.

The donation from Farm Credit Canada came from its Agri-Spirit Fund. Projects that can be considered for the fund fall into two categories, sustainability projects and capital projects. Sustainability projects are things like upgrades to heating and cooling systems in a community building, the installation of new windows in a recreation centre, or purchasing capital items for a recycling facility. Capital projects include construction or upgrades to a hospital, medical centre, childcare facility, rink, sportsplex or the purchase of fire and rescue equipment.

The Town of O’Leary applied to the Agri-Spirit Fund on behalf of the fire department.

Turnout gear has a life expectancy of 10 years before it has to be retired. The new gear will likely go to department members on the front line, those who go into a structure if it’s on fire. 

“All gear is rated for 10 years, it’s all ready for structural fire fighting, the only thing is it’s more for comfort and the abrasion quality, getting caught and stuff like that,” said Mr Buchanan. “That’s what it comes down to, and the moisture barrier inside the gear.”

Mr Phillips added all the gear is also custom fit for each firefighter.

“They come in, and they take your chest measurements, your hip measurements, your inseam, and that kind of thing, and it’s cut to fit you. If you order a set of bunker gear, you have to decide on a spec. We have so many pockets on our gear, and the type of fasteners, and the liners are different from gear to gear.”

Something else the department is trying this year are tags. Each crew member has two tags attached to their gear with a number on it to help track every member who’s on the scene of an incident.

“We actually have a little post with a ring on it, and I would snap my tag on that ring, and that says you’re on the scene,” explained Mr Phillips. “If you go into a structure if you’re fighting a structure fire, there would be an officer at the door. He would have a second ring and you would give your second tag to him. When you come back out, you collect your tag.”

The department has used a variation of this system over the years, including Velcro tags with the name on it. With this new system, new members of the department would inherit those numbers.

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