By Will McClure
When something gets old and worn out, it is natural to find the need to replace it. However, it may not be as easy as it may seem when it comes to expenses, especially when that need calls for new gear for a volunteer firefighting department that is not specifically funded by the Commission of Fire Protection. But, thanks to generous donations and extra work for the city, the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department were recently able to purchase new bunker gear to help protect the firefighters during calls.
Under the operation of the State Fireman's and Fire Marshal's Association of Texas, the Stamford Fire Department has used their existing equipment for approximately 10 years, the maximum time allowed before the equipment would have to be replaced under the Commission of Fire Protection which funds the replacement of equipment in departments that they govern. However, with the Stamford Department falling under a different association, not only is the equipment monitoring not governed, but there is sometimes no funding to help pay for new equipment when needed. Thankfully, through the support of generous donations and money set aside from Jones County, a fund was established to buy the new equipment and bring it up to date to keep the firefighters safe on future calls.
Stamford City Manager Alan Plumlee said that the department, for this purchase, had set aside money from Jones County for providing fire protection in rural areas as well as their fundraiser of putting out American flags during certain holidays. With the equipment being between 10 to 11 years old, the need was there to start the process of bringing in new equipment for the firefighters, keeping them safe on calls as well as bringing the equipment up to date. But, as Plumlee noted, the new equipment would not come cheap.
"We want to give them the best protection that we possibly can," Plumlee said, "and be the safest at whatever we do. So, basically what we just spent was $25,159 for the new protective equipment. It cost us $1,792 a set. That's for a coat and pants and we bought 14 sets. That's enough to clothe everybody we have plus a few extra. We're also fixing to spend about $5,000 more to replace helmets...If we were going to outfit a new firefighter that comes in, you're looking at almost $2,500 to outfit a firefighter."
Even with the cost of the equipment, the Stamford Fire Department was able to not only meet that price range, but do so in a way as to not take any money away from the city's budget, Plumlee said. Plumlee did note that some of the money that was used for the new equipment came from donations from property owners who have had a fire as a small thanks to the department for helping them and all of their hard work. Although it is not required for a donation in this manner, every donation is greatly appreciated and has helped keep the firefighters safe.
When it was time to get the new equipment, Plumlee said that each firefighter was individually sized in order for the gear to properly fit them and avoid ruining the gear during a call. After a six week turnaround, the gear arrived at the Fire Department, much to the delight of the firefighters. The old gear, which in the past from other departments has been donated to the Texas Forest Service where it is patched and repaired for use within the service, will be kept in storage in case of a future emergency in which a firefighter does not have their newer gear, due to it being washed.
"Five years ago, through a grant, we purchased a washing machine and it was suggested that if [we] fight a lot of fires that you at least wash these things once a year. So we have a washing machine upstairs that we can wash the gear in and then we let it set out and dry for a week. So what we're doing is, even though it's old stuff we're getting rid of, we're washing it, cleaning it, we're going to label it with the name and put it in storage. If their new stuff gets dirty and needs to be washed, we can use it in an emergency to keep [them] safe," Plumlee said.
And so, as the Stamford Fire Department breaks in their new gear, it can be assured that they will be safe during a call when their pagers alert them. The maintenance and cost of the gear can be quite costly, but thanks to the generous donations from residents and payments from the city and Jones County, the Stamford firefighters are able to remain safe during their calls with the new equipment. The upkeep may be daunting, but no one can put a price on the safety and lives of Stamford's brave firefighters.