This page highlights how equipment purchased with AFG grant funds, helped the Whispering Pines Volunteer Fire Department offer mutual aid to a neighboring fire department. This page is intended for fire departments and nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Service organizations (EMS).
The Difference Between Life and Breath: Fire Department Equipped to Offer Mutual Aid
Whispering Pines Volunteer Fire Department
RAPID CITY, SD -- The Whispering Pines Volunteer Fire Department provides structural and wildland fire suppression and medical first response to a community of approximately 2,500 residents in Pennington County, South Dakota.
Prior to receiving the FY 2005 AFG funds, three-quarters of their volunteers did not have basic self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and personal alert safety system (PASS) devices that met the minimum standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The majority of the SCBA and PASS devices they used were obsolete, 15 to 20 years old, and well worn. Plus, they had three different models of SCBA and PASS devices, which meant that all volunteer firefighters had to be trained on all three systems.
In addition, none of the firefighters were protected with a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) pack, which would be of critical importance should anyone become injured in an unsafe environment and need additional air to boost their supply until rescue can be completed.
As mutual aid calls increased, this situation resulted in equipment incompatibility problems on mutual aid fire incidents. Their budget was limited. and the county government could not support their needs with additional funding. Funding the project through local donations and the rental of the community room in the fire station was not an option as those funds were obligated to support their apparatus expenditures.
Prior to receiving the 2005 grant, Whispering Pines received a 2004 AFG award to purchase 18 sets of firefighter turnout gear. These two grants together have allowed the department to ensure that 100 percent of their volunteer firefighters who do interior fire attack are protected with safe, OSHA- and NFPA-compliant gear. Also, the new equipment matches the equipment used by the neighboring departments and cooperating agencies for which they provide mutual aid.
How The Grant Has Helped:
On November 22, 2006, Whispering Pines VFD responded to a request for mutual aid on one of two structure fires that had started simultaneously in a neighboring jurisdiction.
With the simultaneous starts, Whispering Pines was one of only three engine companies available to assist with this fire, and arrived to find two structures involved with fire threatening two other structures. After cooling the exposures, they made an initial attack with a ground-placed monitor on one structure that was fully involved, and quickly knocked down the main body of fire. The home department of the neighboring jurisdiction took care of the other structure.
They quickly began following up with hand lines to knockdown the remaining hotspots. With a partial collapse of the structure, overhaul was going to take a while to do it safely. Due to the cool air temperatures (approximately 35 degrees) and high winds (reported gusts to 30 mph) the smoke stayed near ground level throughout the incident—making it mandatory to wear SCBA. “With the lighter weight and longer operating time of our new SCBAs, we were able to continue to fight the fire until additional mutual aid from the next county arrived approximately 60 minutes later,” said Assistant Chief Stephen Keegan. “With the short duration of our old SCBAs (15-minute working time) and the limited number of spare bottles, we could not have maintained a constant firefighting presence until the additional mutual aid companies arrived—unless we placed the health of our firefighters at risk. Clearly this new equipment is making a difference in the safety and effectiveness of our firefighting operation.”
What They Bought With The Grant:
- Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus with Personal Alert Safety Systems
- Spare Cylinders
- Rapid Intervention Team Pack