Orange Hill, Ebro Fire Departments receive new firefighting equipment

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The Orange Hill and Ebro Volunteer Fire Departments recently got new equipment in the form of five Air-Paks, 10 air supply bottles, and five masks each, courtesy of a state grant that Washington County Fire Coordinator Justin Leach said is $102,000 in total. 

Orange Hill Lieutenant David Knowles said the equipment is “way overdue.”

“We’ve been nickel and diming since day one.We begged and borrowed when we first started and we’re blessed to get what we got,” Knowles said. “We worked long and hard for it. We got a good county chief that is willing to go out and get this stuff. He’s the one who deserves the credit.”

Orange Hill Volunteer Fire Department Lieutenant David Knowles, Washington County Fire Coordinator Justin Leach, and Orange Hill Assistant Chief Mike Patterson display new firefighting Air-Paks and masks the Fire Department recently got through a state grant. [COLLIN BREAUX | Washington County News]

Air-Paks provide air for firefighters inside an environment deemed to be immediately dangerous to life and health, such as a burning structure filled with smoke. 

“Of course, you can’t just walk in and breathe. The carbon monoxide will kill you,” Leach said. “These provide air to the firemen to do searches or a quick fire knockdown in any type of environment that you basically can’t just walk in.”

The equipment is “safer” and lighter, Knowles said.

Leach said the Air-Paks are “top of the line” with 45-minute air bottles, which means firefighters will be able to work longer than the previous 35-minute air bottles.

“We can come out and literally within five seconds switch bottles and go right back in,” Leach said. “The credit goes to the volunteers who put in the time and effort every day, leaving work, responding to calls–especially for structure fires.”

Volunteers do more than squirt water from a hose outside a structure, Leach said.

“We try to be very aggressive. We go interior when we can,” Leach said. “These guys do. They put their lives on the line when they respond to a call no matter if it’s a fire, car wreck, whatever. I think they deserve the credit for the hard work they did to help me get them staying compliant. There’s a lot of work in it. There’s a lot of man hours.”

Orange Hill Assistant Chief Mike Patterson said the new equipment is a “blessing.”

“Now we got Justin that came in here and he’s helped us get a long way in providing a better fire service for our community,” Patterson said. “That is why we do it, for our community. These are really going to play a big part in that and I can’t wait to see where we go from here. We always tale a step to be better than we were yesterday.” 

Leach said they applied for the grant back in June.

“A lot of credit goes to (county) commissioners on allowing us to write these grants. It’s free money. One hundred percent reimbursement,” Leach said. “We owe a lot of thanks to the governor, (State Volunteer Fire Coordinator) Charlie Frank, everybody that puts forth the effort to make these funds available to volunteer departments. They’re not easy to get. There’s a lot of things departments have to do to be compliant to get these grants. It takes a while. It’s not something that can be done overnight.” 

Even the paperwork that goes into the grants “takes time,” Leach said.

“You have to describe the need,” Leach said. “You have to describe what you have, how many people you have on a department, how it’s going to benefit the citizens of the county or city, wherever you’re at. It’s a lot. Everybody joined together and we’ve done it.” 

Leach said the Fire Departments are always looking for volunteers.