Nichols Volunteer Fire Department updates bunker gear

NICHOLS, Iowa–No matter a fire department’s size, protecting its members represents a high priority. This spring, the Nichols Volunteer Fire Department took the next step in keeping its members safe by completely updating all their bunker gear.

When firefighters respond to a call, they don a lot of equipment designed to keep them safe from the many hazards they may face. In order to make sure gear does not wear out and that firefighters can take advantage of advances in safety technology, departments must replace their gear every 10 years. A large undertaking, the Nichols Volunteer Fire Department required about $51,000 to complete the project.

Because the process of ordering and receiving bunker gear takes some time, Nichols Fire Chief Kevin Flynn began working or replacing the departments gear in 2020. In order to fund it, the department applied for a Joseph and Edward Ryan Memorial Grant, which provided them with $30,000 to put towards the project. “They were gracious with their grant and always help us in our time of need,” stated Flynn.

Previously, the department received grants from the Ryan Trust to help cover the cost of replacing air packs and self contained breathing apparatus, purchase a new pumper tanker truck, install an air pack filling station, and buy their most recent set of bunker gear. Money from the City of Nichols, Pike Township, and the department’s highly successful drive-through pancake breakfast covered the rest of the cost.

Late in 2020, Flynn placed the department’s order for 16 full sets of bunker gear, consisting of protective coats, pants, boots, gloves, Nomex hoods, and helmets, enough to outfit every firefighter on the force. As an added benefit to firefighters, Flynn selected coats, pants, and hoods specially designed to help protect firefighters from the many carcinogens they encounter when putting out fires.

Towards the end of May, the new bunker gear finally arrived at the Nichols Volunteer Fire Department. After checking to make sure everything fit correctly, firefighters put it into service right away. Flynn felt pleased that the department could finally take advantage of the new equipment and that the department had received the community support needed to make the upgrade possible. “It’s always an accomplishment when you can do something like this in a small department,” he observed.

To stay up to date, fire departments must always have an eye to the future. To that end, Flynn has already started identifying the next projects the Nichols Volunteer Fire Department will focus on. Within the next five years, the department will need to replace its SCBA gear and air packs. They also have their sights set on purchasing a newer brush truck. As a rural department, the Nichols Volunteer Fire Department responds to numerous grass fires each year. Having a newer truck will help them to continue to answer these calls as quickly and effectively as possible.