published Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Cleveland fire chief urges buying equipment 'we need to survive'

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland Fire Department is requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars to better protect its firefighters, keep its vehicles running and improve response times.

At a recent strategic planning session with city leaders, Fire Chief Steve Haun brought several priority requests to the table.

"We're at a point where we've gone the last five years without the capital money to do a lot of improvements and things," said Haun, whose top requests included self-contained breathing apparatus and bunker gear.

He said he was asking for "items we need to survive."

Quick funding for the breathing devices not only would improve the dangerous working conditions of the city's firefighters, it would reduce the amount of money needed to replace the devices, Haun said. This is the last year to purchase oxygen equipment that will be compatible with the department's current face masks. Newer breathing devices will require new masks, he said.

The cost for 60 breathing apparatus packs is $300,000 under current pricing, Haun said. After this year, the cost could be $400,000 or more. In the meantime, repairs on the old equipment cost between $1,000 and $1,200 per pack, he said.

The fire department's bunker gear -- protective clothes and coats worn in hostile environments -- have outlived their expected lifespans, Haun said. He said the integral moisture barriers in the gear can no longer be repaired. New gear will cost $160,000, he said.

There is also a need to either replace or refurbish the Freewill Road Station firetruck, otherwise known as Engine No. 5, Haun said. As the 16-year-old vehicle has not seen too much service despite its age, the fire chief recommended refurbishing it, which he said would cost between $144,000 and $178,000. A new, base-model firetruck would cost $389,000, Haun said.

He also suggested the fire department replace a couple of 1999 Chevrolet trucks that are used as inspection vehicles. Both have logged more than 100,000 miles, and he said newer vehicles with better fuel efficiency could be purchased for $35,000 apiece.

Another expenditure Haun requested was the installation of GIS-based pre-emption equipment at 19 intersections throughout the city. The traffic signal override devices will cost $122,644, and the activator equipment for fire department vehicles will cost $47,685, Haun said. Funding scenarios ranged between one and three years.

The new pre-emption system, said Haun, works in long-range zones, making it easier to clear out intersection bottlenecks well ahead of the arrival of emergency vehicles. Another key element of the system is interconnectivity among light signal controls on a given route that fire trucks might take, further speeding up traffic-clearing efforts.

Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel said funding ongoing pre-emption-related purchases possibly could be handled through a sales tax allocation line.

Another advantage of the pre-emption system is that Bradley County emergency services can buy into the switchover to the GIS-based infrastructure, Casteel said, it would simply be a matter of reimbursing the city for vehicle remotes.

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