Safety, functionality, detail key to local firefighting success
Risk is an inherit part of firefighting. It shows up in nearly every aspect of the job and while this may be something that will never change, it can at least be mitigated through sound safety practices as well as reliable equipment.
In this light the Price City Fire Department conducts numerous inspections of nearly all its firefighting equipment at least annually, and while this does take a toll on the overall budget, it is a necessary part of maintaining overall safety.
"Most people don't realize a big part of my budget is spent on testing equipment at different times during the year," said Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont.
To lower costs some testing is done by the firefighters themselves, but in order to keep a healthy level of integrity and trustworthiness from vital pieces of equipment, like ladders and fire pumps, outside companies, are often brought in.
Last week ladders were tested by a company called Diversified Inspections/ITL.
"It costs about $1,500 to $2,000 a year for the ladders, but it's important to realize that it would be life threatening if one of them were to fail,"said Bedont.
Overall the department spends around four percent of its annual budget on testing equipment and while this might not seem like much, it becomes significant when considering that 85 percent of the budget usually goes towards benefits for the volunteers. Besides volunteer benefits and equipment testing, the only other part of the budget that is as large is fuel and vehicle maintenance which accounts for four percent.
Last year the department's budget totaled to around $427,000 with a majority of it coming from grants and local sales tax.
"When I apply for grants, I think about what is acceptable, and where my risks are, but federal grants are funny, and everything costs a lot," Bedont said.
As with almost any organization resources can be limited and when the department gets an average of about 400-600 calls a year it becomes important to have reliable equipment.
Firefighting equipment can be expensive, with a 20 foot ladder costing around $1,200. Its high building standard is intended for it to withstand the extreme conditions presented on a fire, not to mention the frequent inspections it must undergo throughout its useful life.
Last week the ladders underwent a weight test in which a 500 pound weight was placed on their center and once removed, the ladders had to bend back to within one fourth of an inch of their original shape.
The up front costs of the equipment can be high. However, when compared to conventional equipment found for far less cost, the standards are higher as well and so is the life expectancy of the equipment.
"Some of our ladders are about 20 years old," said Bedont. "They're good as long as they pass the inspection, but a lot of it depends on use and abuse."
With a total of 24 volunteers in three shifts, the department is responsible for the city of Price as well as parts of the county through a contract agreement, which adds up to about 259 square miles of coverage the department must handle. About two thirds of calls actually come from the city of Price.
"With the economy slowing down, the cash volume coming into the department, has declined, but the volume of calls has not," noted Bedont.