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West Valley City Journal

WVC firefighters to utilize new air packs in 2023, include thermal imaging

Dec 04, 2022 11:44AM ● By Travis Barton

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Firefighters in West Valley City will breathe new air in 2023.

After decades of the city’s firefighters using a specific model of self-control breathing apparatus, the air packs used when entering a fire, the fire department will switch to a new model in 2023.

The West Valley City Council unanimously approved the switch in late October after Fire Chief John Evans urged the council to allow the change following issues with the current manufacturer.

“Our air packs will no longer meet the (new) standard” beginning in 2023, Evans told the council.

This comes after the manufacturer—Honeywell, who made the packs for WVC since 2015, having bought out the previous company in 2010—started scaling back in 2020. Honeywell notified vendors and fire departments it would discontinue its fire service line of breathing apparatus equipment.

Evans said it led to not only a shortage of parts, but increased prices over 200%.

“Just the mask, the clear plastic that we have to replace quite a bit, we’re now waiting four months if we’re lucky to get one,” Evans said, adding they’ve had to “cannibalize” other packs to “make a good pack. We just can’t get the equipment anymore.”

Additionally, new standards coming out in 2023 by the National Fire Protection Association for air packs increased the urgency for the change.

Evans recommended apparatus from MSA Safety, an American manufacturer that began with masks for coal mining before branching out into fire.

All surrounding fire agencies use the MSA equipment, he said, benefiting firefighter safety and “interoperability for incidents” they respond to. “If someone goes down, we can still get air into each other,” he said.

Another bonus is each apparatus has thermal imaging cameras built into them. Currently, the fire department has only one large camera for each fire truck. Each firefighter will now be able to see heat or an outline if a person is there as they enter the building.

Evans said it’s not just fire safety but also increases their capacity.

“Biggest thing is firefighters will be able to tell if they’re going somewhere it’s too hot they shouldn’t be in,” Evans said.

New packs would arrive in eight to 12 weeks, Evans said. The department will require training on the new packs, but Evans expected everyone to be trained within a week of having them.

Previous packs will be used for training purposes in the fire academy.