Posted 10/04/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Rural volunteer fire departments have a hard enough time recruiting volunteers to fill their ranks. Equipping them, however, can be an additional challenge.
Knowing the struggle, the Tioga Fire Department decided to help out a fellow rural department with a donation of valuable self-contained breathing apparatus units (SCBA).
The units are used to provide oxygen and protect eyes when entering burning structures or other fire situations with heavy smoke.
The Tioga department upgraded their SCBAs from the 30-minute units to 45-minute units with high-intensity gas masks.
This left them with 10 older, but still very useful and valuable SCBA units.
Rather than stuff the gear in a closet or put it up for sale, they decided it should go to another department in need of the gear.
Volunteer firefighter Jayme Odegaard, along with other members of the department, had heard about the difficulties Oliver County Rural Fire Protection District in Center was having, getting by with just three SCBA units, only two of which were complete.
The Oliver department was unable to send more than two volunteers into a fire to search for pets or people, or to perform a rescue.
Odegaard estimated an SCBA will cost $800 at the lowest end of the scale, but for a full setup at the higher end, it can go $3,000 to $5,000 each.
“It was a no-brainer to help them out,” Odegaard said.
Odegaard said there are people in the Tioga department who remember what it was like in the early days when equipment was scarce.
It not only makes it hard to keep the community safe, it can put firefighter’s lives at risk.
“We want to be one of those departments that helps out other departments,” Odegaard said.
Kenny Rude, chief of the Oliver County department, said the gear is a huge boost to their department.
“It was no big deal to them, but it meant a lot to us,” Rude said.
This isn’t the first time Tioga has passed on or loaned equipment to other departments. In addition to hoses, nozzles and other smaller items, the department has loaned out its pumper truck to help other departments in the area.