The city’s fire rescue department is spending big to ensure the safety of its firefighters.
The department has been awarded a $90,124 federal grant to make upgrades to its fire stations — upgrades that will make being a firefighter in Boynton Beach healthier and safer, Deputy Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Jeff Davidson said.
“We’re being really proactive when it comes to keeping our firefighters healthy. We’re really ahead of the ball,” Davidson said.
Most of the grant money, $54,000, is being spent on a diesel exhaust capture system for Fire Station No. 3. This system will improve the air quality in the station’s apparatus bays, living areas and meeting rooms.
Davidson said the exhaust capture system is key to reducing on-the-job hazards for firefighters.
“Vehicle exhaust emissions in a fire station are a firefighter’s most significant cancer health risk,” he said. “We’re doing this stuff to try to reduce cancer in firefighters.”
Right now, the exhaust capture system is only in one of the department’s five stations, but Davidson said the city is hoping to apply for future grants to outfit the rest of the stations with the equipment.
The remaining $36,124 of the grant money is being spent on gear dryers, which will be used to speed up the drying process of firefighter gear, enabling rescue crews to return to disaster scenes as quickly as possible.
Davidson said the gear dryers will cut down the drying time of firefighting equipment to about two hours.
“Before that, it would take a couple of days before the gear was totally dry,” he said.
The dryers will be available in all five of the department’s stations. Davidson said that would be impossible without the money from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
“Without the grant, it would have taken us years to outfit the stations with this equipment. We would not have been able to afford to do it all at once,” he said.
Even with the grant, Davidson said the upgrades would not have been possible without support from his superiors.
“Our fire administration and city manager are totally committed to the health and safety of our firefighters,” he said. “That’s our number one priority.”