Departments make pitch | News, Sports, Jobs

OBSERVER Photo by Anthony Dolce Members of the East and West Dunkirk Fire Departments gather at the Dunkirk Board Meeting to present their proposed 2022 budgets. East Dunkirk Fire Chief Kyle Damon, standing, asked the board to look at a device used for both departments.

Since the Dunkirk City Council wanted to approve budgets for both East Dunkirk Fire and West Dunkirk Fire, the East Fire Department had an interesting piece of equipment that they wanted to approve. The bulk of the budget is made up of supplies, and as a result of COVID-19, the cost of supplies has inflated. In addition, it was noted that many EMTs were required to recertify, which also takes some of the budget.

But the big purchase the fire service wanted to make was an extractor hood. A hood is a device used by fire departments to thoroughly clean their protective equipment, to keep themselves and their families safe in their own home.

“Every time you go to a fire, you are naturally exposed to countless carcinogens,” said East Dunkirk fire chief Kyle Damon. “You take that stuff home in your car, to your family and kids. There is a report showing that children of firefighters are 27% more likely to develop cancer if they are exposed to it.”

Damon added that firefighters are 250% more likely to develop cancer than the average person due to exposure to noxious smoke and that 68% of firefighters will develop cancer in their lifetime.

“Everyone wore it on their gear, it’s in the fire truck,” Damon said. “It’s in your heart, it’s in your hair, it’s on your skin. You go home, now those clothes are in your washing machine where your kids’ clothes are and you’re using a towel that the kids might use. It’s very eye-opening information and it’s something we really want to take care of right now.”

The cost of the hood is about $12,000, which is a big expense for a single purchase, but Damon made it abundantly clear that it’s something that would make firefighters and their families safer.

“It’s something we need to look at,” Damon said. “We have to look out for our people, our families and our children.

At this point we have to step forward and do it now and get ahead of the other departments that are waiting. We don’t want to wait.”

Damon noted that the call volume has skyrocketed because of places like WellNow that are now up and running, greatly increasing the need for supplies, as well as calls. In 2017 the branch had 193 calls, this year there are 280 and the branch has nine active members.

Although the Dunkirk Fire Department has a hood, Damon said it’s inconvenient to use theirs due to the volunteer-based nature of the East Dunkirk Fire Department. Because they all have different jobs.

“We don’t have the equipment to take eight sets of gear out of service and drop it off at headquarters,” Damon said. “If we had this machine in our hall, we could put it in the machine, get to work and come back to have it done. This is much more cost effective than sending it to a company every time we need to. We have to incur those costs on one side or the other.”

While it’s not productive for East Dunkirk Fire to use the City of Dunkirk’s hood, to supplement costs and increase its use, Damon added that they would like West Dunkirk Fire to use the hood. In addition, the idea arose to share the costs with the city of Sheridan, with whom East Dunkirk Fire works closely anyway.

“We don’t want to keep it to ourselves,” Damon said. “We also want to help our fellow brothers and sisters. We don’t want to open it up to every department in the province because we would be there constantly and not use it ourselves, but the two cities would benefit both of us.”

After all, the Eastern Dunkirk Fire Department budget, including the extractor, would be $173,704, but Damon added that they are constantly looking for grants to offset that. With the budget proposal on the ward’s table, councilor Juan Pagan said helping the wards is an important undertaking.

“It’s crucial that we help them,” Pagan said. “I don’t know what it would cost our municipality. Thank goodness we still have people willing to do this and keep these costs to a minimum.”

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