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Sault firefighters can breathe easier with lighter hi-tech equipment

Sault Fire Services demonstrates new breathing apparatus for firefighters

Thursday marked the first day in service for new oxygen units for Sault Fire Services.

Sault firefighters demonstrated, for media, one of the new MSA G1 Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) units purchased by Sault Fire Services at Fire Hall Number 1 on Tancred Street.

Jon MacFarlane, Sault Fire Services training officer, told SooToday “these new packs are light years ahead of what we had.”

And, much lighter in weight.

An old breathing apparatus takes two hands to carry and makes a loud clang when laid down on Fire Hall Number 1’s floor, while the new models (which mark the first replacement of breathing gear for Sault Fire Services since 1987) are made of lightweight aluminum by comparison.

“There are safety features in it which we can use to clean the packs completely to reduce carcinogens, so with the increase in firefighter cancer cases, this will be huge for us,” MacFarlane said.

Firefighters always have each others backs, but the MSA G1 has a telemetry system, whereby a firefighter in a command vehicle outside a fire scene can watch if firefighters wearing the units are going into a low oxygen situation and keep a closer eye on them.

The MSA G1 provides 30 to 40 minutes of air (more than the previous 20 minutes available in the old units), a low air warning when down to 33 per cent capacity, a speaker which amplifies a firefighter’s voice while at a fire scene when communicating with other firefighters, a face piece with a built in heads up display and is easily disassembled for cleaning purposes.

Peter Johnson, Sault Fire Services chief, said “we’re ready for action with them today. Everybody in the service has been extensively trained with them, and they’re in place on our front line apparatus today at all four stations.”

“103 air bottles were purchased and an additional 30 units purchased with the harness and other pieces to it. We had to buy new air compressor cylinders to fill them as well,” Johnson said.

The entire purchase was made for just under $500,000, the expenditure approved by city council.

Johnson said an SCBA Committee was formed in 2015, including members of the Firefighters Association and Sault Fire Services senior management, the committee unanimously deciding on the MSA G1 after testing all SCBA units on the market.

Sault firefighter Micky Sartoretto said “the ability to have more air in your bottle and the ability to communicate is huge... it’s really progressive for our department. Everybody’s looking forward to using it.”

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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