St. Clair Shores Fire Department to purchase new air packs, swears in final firefighter

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 8, 2019

 Mark Van Baak, of Troy, was sworn in as a firefighter with the St. Clair Shores Fire Department Feb. 7. His father, Mark Van Baak, right, pins on his badge.

Mark Van Baak, of Troy, was sworn in as a firefighter with the St. Clair Shores Fire Department Feb. 7. His father, Mark Van Baak, right, pins on his badge.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — New air packs and a new firefighter are making their way to the St. Clair Shores Fire Department, which is now fully staffed with the hiring of Mark Van Baak, of Troy, according to Fire Chief James Piper.

Van Baak was sworn in as a probationary firefighter Feb. 7. He has experience with the Troy Fire Department, a volunteer force.

“I’ve been wanting to be here ever since I trained with these guys eight years ago,” Van Baak said.

He completed his emergency medical service ride-along with the St. Clair Shores Fire Department while he was in paramedic school.

Van Baak grew up in St. Clair Shores and still has family in the community.

“As we’re getting short on medics nationwide, I wanted to be sure I was serving a community I had a vested interest in,” he said after being sworn in at Central Fire Station.

Piper said that retirements and promotions had led to the need to hire new firefighters this year, but the department is now fully staffed.

“Mark actually brings a lot of EMS experience with him,” Piper said, adding that because of the ride-alongs in paramedic school, “he has some familiarity with our systems.”

Piper was in front of the City Council Feb. 4 requesting a $54,720 purchase from West Shore Fire for five sets of air packs and bottles, and six packs for the Rapid Intervention Team, which stands by during a fire in case a firefighter needs to be rescued during the course of fighting a fire. The company also offered five extra air bottles in the bid.

He said that the air packs are the breathing apparatus that firefighters carry to every fire run.

The department last purchased 35 air packs with 70 air bottles in 2012 with an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, but Piper said that the department now has a plan in place to replace a few packs each year to prevent a large dent in the budget.

Because the packs are replaced every so often, Piper said they preferred to stay with the type of air packs the department currently uses so that the bottles are interchangeable.

Only one vendor submitted a bid to the city, Piper said, but, “based on quotes that we were getting back in October, this is right in line with what we were receiving.”

The air packs are good for at least 10 years of use. Although they are under warranty up to 15 years, Piper said that the warranty is only good for breakdowns in craftsmanship, not for heavy use by the St. Clair Shores Fire Department.

Councilman Peter Rubino asked if the city could save money by purchasing all new packs, all at once, from whichever vendor and product was cheaper at the time, but Piper said that he preferred to stick with the brand that the department is used to using.

“Because we do this in the dark, by feel ... it’s safer not to change (types of air packs),” Piper said. “This is a good manufacturer who has a good product and maintains it well.”

A motion by Councilman Peter Accicia, supported by Councilman Ron Frederick, to purchase the air packs passed unanimously Feb. 4.

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