Local Firefighters Get New SCBA Gear

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SSM Fire Services SCBA
The Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services unveiled its new, updated Self Contained Breathing Appartus, or SCBA, gear on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Megan Pounder/SaultOnline

The Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services unveiled its new, updated Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA, gear on Thursday afternoon.

In 2015, the fire department decided that the SCBA units currently being used were becoming outdated and needed to be replaced. A SCBA committee was then formed, and consisted of members from the Fire Association and Senior Fire Management.

In a collaborative effort, all SCBA units on the market were tested and evaluated by the committee. After a lengthy evaluation was complete, a unanimous vote by the SCBA Committee concluded that the “MSA G1” unit would best meet the needs of the SSM Fire Service. 30 units and 103 air bottles were purchased at a cost of just under $500,000 – an expense approved by Council as part of the 2018 Capital budget – and have been distributed throughout four stations in the Sault.

“I think it’s important to mention that it was a unanimous decision by the Firefighter’s Association and Senior Fire Management to come to the decision on the actual unit that we purchased,” said Fire Chief Peter Johnson, who’s been involved with this project from its inception in 2015. “We worked together to evaluate – we did a very extensive evaluation of all the units on the market, and it was nice to see both sides of management and union work together to make this purchase.”

The highlights and features of the MSA G1 unit are:

  • Ergonomics,
  • Capacity of 4500 psi – which provides 30-40 minutes of air
  • Low air warning at 33% capacity
  • Aluminum liner wound with carbon (light)
  • Face piece has built in Heads Up Display
  • Easy of disassembly for decontamination purpose
  • Single rechargeable lithium ion battery supply
  • Speaker amplification for communication
  • Telemetry for safety and data collection with the ability to track all service performed on the units; and
  • A 15-year warranty.

Richard Bishop, the President of the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighter’s Association, said it was “pretty exciting” to be a part of the decision-making process and to be able to have a say in something that they’re going to be wearing and using in extreme situations.

“Technology has changed so much since our packs came in,” he said. “That part was pretty exciting, seeing all of the stuff it had, but it was also a bit of a learning curve that we’re going to have to adapt to. But it was neat to see the different ways our air can be monitored by someone else (using the telemetry system connected to computers), and for accountability, I think it was probably the biggest selling point of these packs, not to mention the (lighter) carbon fiber bottles.”

Micky Sartoretto, a 4th Class Firefighter, told SaultOnline the new packs mean a lot to the guys on the front lines.

“They mean a lot, obviously, the communications and the (fact that we) have more air in the bottles, we can work longer, and the decontamination process with everything is pretty huge and you’ll see a big morale lift around the department, a lot of the guys are excited,” he said.

Sartoretto said, being on the service for just over a year, he’s thankful for the update, but not as thankful as the guys who have been on the service for years.

“I’m just excited, and it’s progressive and (I’m) looking forward to bigger things to come,” he said.

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