The St. Clair Shores Fire Department will soon replace its current stock of air packs.

The St. Clair Shores Fire Department will soon replace its current stock of air packs.

Photo by Alyssa Ochss

St. Clair Shores City Council approves purchase of breathing gear for firefighters

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 5, 2024


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores City Council approved the purchase of self-contained breathing apparatuses for the Fire Department in a 6-0 vote at their meeting on May 20.

Councilman Ronald Frederick was excused from the meeting.

According to items attached to the meeting’s agenda, the purchase would include 44 air packs at a cost of $237,600, 49 masks ($22,050), 88 bottles ($114,400) and telemetry equipment ($17,000) that allows incident commanders to track air system alerts for a team of firefighters. The total cost came to $386,050 and Fire Chief James Piper said the expenditure was written into the last fiscal year’s budget. There is a trade-in offer at $5,000. The department asked for a budget amendment to cover $56,050 of the purchase.

The bid for the MSA Safety gear was awarded to MacQueen Equipment. Piper said the department previously used 3M Scott Air-Pak systems.

The department’s current air packs are around 10 years old, Piper said.

“In order to do it, to keep them on the same technology, what we’re doing is replacing them all at one time,” Piper said.

With different versions, the current air packs need to have an adapter to connect to a few different department apparatuses if “buddy breathing” is needed. Buddy or rescue breathing, Piper said, occurs when a firefighter is out of air, and they need to connect to another firefighter’s air pack.

“Thankfully, that’s something that’s very rare, but it is a possibility, therefore we have to have this stuff ready to go,” Piper said about the adapters. “And so now all of our air packs will be equipped with this newer style of what they call UAC, universal air connector.”

Piper said the new air packs are warrantied for 15 years, but they make sure none are older than 10 years.

The packs are one of three essential items firefighters need to do their jobs, Piper said.

“We got to have the fire trucks to get us there and have the water, we have to have that bunker gear that keeps us safe from the heat and the fire, and then we have to have these air packs to keep the smoke out of our lungs,” Piper said.

He went on to say that most civilians die from smoke inhalation, not fire.

“We wouldn’t be able to operate for more than a couple seconds inside without having these air packs so it’s vital,” Piper said.

Councilwoman Linda Bertges said in an email she was pleased with the decision the council made.

“The updated equipment will align with current industry standards and enhance interoperability among our Saint Clair Shores fire department and neighboring cities fire departments,” she wrote.