Muscatine Fire Department to upgrade SCBA gear using grant

A Muscatine firefighter demonstrating how to wear SCBA gear.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–The Muscatine Fire Department’s self contained breathing apparatus, SCBA for short, will receive a long anticipated upgrade this year, thanks to a $260,909.09 Assistance to Firefighters Grant the department received. The grant will allow them to purchase 41 air packs, air cylinders, and masks, allowing them to equip each first responder who will need one.

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hartman explained that after several years of applying for grants to replace their aging equipment (so old that replacement parts have grown scare) the department looks forward to making a large technological leap forward, “Every few years the standard for this type of equipment gets reviewed and improved,” said Hartman: “Since we are ‘jumping’ several generations, we will be getting an air pack that works better, has better integration with other systems, has better safety and emergency features, and all around is easier to use. Beyond the base safety improvements of the upgrade, these should make wearing and using the air packs less stressful and more comfortable.”

Because the Assistance to Firefighters Grant requires only a 10% match from local departments, it makes large investments more manageable, something Hartman says the Muscatine Fire Department especially appreciates now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced city revenues and thus the amount of money each department can spend. “The members of our department are acutely aware of the financial difficulties the City is facing,” stated Hartman: “This grant allows us to get equipment we need to do our jobs, yet overall has a much lighter impact on the City finances. Hopefully this helps the Council as they look to address other financial challenges.”

Looking to the future, the Muscatine Fire Department continues to offer ways it can improve to better serve the local community. Hartman elaborated, “one example that is in the works is upgrading our ambulances to a ‘power load’ system that has shown an ability to drastically reduce back injuries.” Currently, the Muscatine Fire Department has one ambulance with this feature. Hartman hopes they can expand this technology to their other ambulances soon. “We have one ambulance with the upgrade and are looking for ways to move the rest to such a system; we are looking at ways to implement this change as soon as possible.” With the grant writing skills of Battalion Chief Ronzheimer and others in the department, Hartman believes they will find the means to take this next step.