CH fire dept. hoping to land $55K grant
by Briana Webster
Dec 07, 2013 | 1500 views | 0 0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CARBON HILL — During a Carbon Hill City Council meeting Thursday night, co-assistant fire chief Phillip Howard spoke to council members about a grant the department has recently applied for that will go toward much-needed equipment.

The amount of the grant is $55,000, which will cover new, self-contained breathing apparatuses. The grant application is due by Dec. 16 and Howard said all the paperwork had been completed. “This will involve eight new SCBAs, or [self-contained] breathing apparatuses, and eight spare tanks. Why we’re requesting this, we had seven to 10 tanks and they were tested in 2012 and none of them passed inspection. So, now we only have one spare tank per setup,” Howard told the council. “We have six breathing apparatuses, and we only have six backup tanks. So, if we go into a house fire and use two tanks, we’ve got to take those empty tanks, rush down here to the building and refill them. So, we’ve applied for additional tanks to supplement this and help us get through house fires.” 

The tanks give firefighters approximately 15 minutes of breathing time on the apparatus, Howard said. Some house fires may cause a firefighter to use two or three tanks in a short period of time.

“This is something necessary that we’ve got to have for structure fires, especially,” Howard commented.

“Back in 2002, we got a grant for the six that we have right now, but at that time we had four additional units and multiple spare bottles. Each unit carries a bottle of breathing oxygen for when you go into a fire,” Howard told during a phone interview Friday afternoon. “... We had a surplus of bottles, but they’re required to be hydrostatic [tested] and checked and in 2012, we had those spare bottles, which were about eight of them, and they all failed the test. They were too old. We have no backup bottles, and we have no backup units.

“It’s a personal safety measure that we have additional equipment available to go into a structure fire.”

During Thursday night’s meeting, Howard said there have been 28 total fires for the 2013 year, which is noticeably down from 2011 where the fire department fought 55 fires. Howard said 2011 was a very dry year. Structure fires averaged about the same as previous years for the department.

In November the cities of Jasper and Carbon Hill were awarded a Community Development Block Grant which has a combined amount of $800,000. Jasper will receive $450,000 while Carbon Hill will get $350,000. This grant will help to fund improvements in Carbon Hill’s water system, focusing mainly on drainage projects.

“We do not have adequate fire hydrants and water pressure to fight fires in this town right now. We’re in a very distressful position with them,” Howard said.

There are between 80 to 90 hydrants currently in the city, and several of those need to be replaced.

Water pressure is low on the north side of town due to old, diminishing water lines that can no longer carry the volume of water needed. Therefore, larger lines and routing will help to get the flow of water back to standards where firefighters can battle fires better.

The ISO, which stands for Insurance Services Office, will be conducting a review of the fire department in January where they will check the department’s procedures, documentation and files, and test the water system. The insurance rates are set based on their evaluation, which could cost the city more money if they fail.

Howard said the department has been retraining firefighters and picking up additional ones, potentially two or three more firefighters.

The city’s fire department currently has 12 firefighters but would like to gain a few more to equal a total of 16.