Santa came early for Wellington firefighters, who on Wednesday received $24,000 in new turnout gear.
“It’s always nice to get new gear,” said Wellington fire district fire chief Mike Wetherbee as he surveyed the pile of goods, which included coats and pants for 14 firefighters. “Everyone complains that it’s stiff to wear, but none of it is really comfortable at all — it’s made to protect against the elements.”
No complaints, however, from firefighters about the caliber of the gear they’re getting.
Each uniform piece has an outer shell with fire retardant materials and an inner vapor barrier and moisture barrier to give off heat and protect from heat. The new gear came from Fire-Dex, out of Medina.
The pricetag? Each firefighter’s coat and pants turnout gear cost $1,732.
“It’s all pretty complex, but it all looks the same,” Wetherbee said. Black plastic bags were marked with each of the firefighters’ names and laid out near one of the fire engines.
The gear must be replaced every 10 years. Last December, 14 other firefighters received their gear. Four new hires will get theirs once they pass their probationary period, Wetherbee said.
The gear is also called bunker gear – so named because firefighters sleep at the station and roll out of bunks into their gear for fire calls.
“They step into their turnout gear and they’re on their way,” Wetherbee said. The old gear is used for backup, if needed, and discarded gear is donated to junior firefighter groups for training purposes.
The new equipment was purchased from the 2015 budget; gear for those who received theirs last year was purchased from the 2014 budget. “It helps not to buy so much at one time,” he said.
Boots, gloves, hoods, and helmets cost another $450 to $500 and are replaced more often.
“It costs about $2,500 to outfit a firefighter,” Wetherbee said. “And that doesn’t include the $5,000 for airpacks and bottles.”
Old self-contained breathing units have outlived their lifespans and are ready to be replaced. Wetherbee said he wanted to buy new ones with a grant, which didn’t come through last year.
He plans to again apply for the grant, but added, “When we go to the taxpayers and work on passing levies, turnout gear is a big factor.”
The WFD will start replacing the airpacks immediately. Eight are budgeted for the next year, which means a $30,000 to $40,000 expenditure from the capital outlay budget.
The plan is to replace eight a year until they’re all replaced, Wetherbee said. “It’s expensive, but anything that says ‘fire’ is very expensive.”
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise Lt. Bryan Hamer models the new turnout gear received in early December by Wellington firefighters.