HUDSON — The clock is ticking for the Hudson Fire Department to replace more than 50 personal air tanks at a price of around $400,000 before they reach the end of their lifespan in less than three months.
The department is looking to acquire 41 new air packs and 82 new oxygen tanks, and masks for each firefighter.
More than 50 of approximately 80 oxygen bottles will pass their expiration date later this year, according to the fire department.
“Every 15 years, the (oxygen) bottles are no longer to be tested or serviceable,” Hudson Assistant Fire Chief Nick Pierro said. “The packs are outdated at this point. They have been discontinued and replaced by the manufacturer.”
The equipment provides vital oxygen to firefighters when they enter burning and smoke-filled buildings.
The details of financing the packs are being worked out and will be presented at the next Common Council meeting on July 17, Treasurer Heather Campbell said at the July 9 Common Council session.
The Common Council could either authorize a bond resolution or a lease resolution, depending on which option is more viable, Campbell said Wednesday.
“I think we should probably bond for the entire amount, even though we have some money in the fund balance because there are other expenses that are coming up that are not bondable,” Campbell said at the meeting. But Campbell is still looking at other options that would be most advantageous to taxpayers, she said.
The department would be able to meet the replacement deadline if the council approves a bond resolution Tuesday, Pierro said.
The majority of the department’s air packs were purchased in 2003 with a grant, Pierro said. Those bottles expire the last day of September under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
The department requested $394,000 for the air packs in February through the FEMA Firefighters Assistance Grant.
But there has been no word on the status of the grant or its approval. Grant awards are usually doled out periodically from April to October to about 2,500 recipients. But so far this year, no awards have been announced, Pierro said.
Fire officials were told the awards would be announced soon, but there has been no further information, Pierro said.
“Unfortunately we’re up against a rock and hard place,” Pierro said. “It is four to six weeks to get the packs in. And we need a couple of weeks to get our guys trained on the new air packs before we put them in service. It is a liability issue.”
The city would most like bond for $354,000, if the department can trade in its old air packs. The city is not allowed to trade in air packs under the terms of the FEMA grant. The fire department was denied a grant for other equipment from FEMA last year.
The Hudson Fire Department averages about 375 calls for service each year.
“Without these air packs, we can’t go into a burning building,” Pierro said. “There are a few things that are 100 percent must haves in the fire service. Air packs personal and personal protective gear and the hose. You can’t do the job without those.”
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.