Castle Valley Comments – May 16, 2019

When members of the Castle Valley Fire Department respond to a structure fire they are required to wear self-contained breathing apparatus, in addition to their 45-pound structure turnout gear.

SCBA, which is also referred to as compressed air breathing apparatus, is a device worn by firefighters to provide breathable air in dangerous atmosphere. The term “self-contained” means that the breathing set is not dependent on a remote supply like through a long hose. An SCBA typically has three main components: a high-pressure tank, a pressure regulator, and facemask, connected together and mounted to a carrying frame and worn by the firefighter.

These SCBA units are very expensive and it’s almost prohibitive for small fire departments to buy and maintain them given that the air tanks have a shelf life of only 15 years before they have to be taken out of service.

A typical SCBA unit can cost in the neighborhood of $7,000 and extra tanks are over $1,500. Each firefighter can easily go through two tanks of air during a fire operation and probably more if the overhaul operation is counted.

The Castle Valley Fire Department maintains about 10 SCBA units, plus an extra eight or ten air bottles, which are carried on the various structure fire engines. The local fire department has been able to maintain the National Fire Protection Association standards and comply with the Insurance Services Office requirements with SCBA equipment that has been handed down from other larger fire departments.

Some of the most recent free acquisitions of several years ago came from Sandy and Price, Utah fire departments but those air cylinders are now nearing their expiration dates and another source had to be found to replace the aging air equipment.

Castle Valley Fire officials were given a tip from a fire equipment salesman that Diamond Valley, Utah Fire Department was acquiring new SCBA units and they would be selling their nearly new equipment. A deal was reached with the fire department from southern Utah and the local fire department took possession of the 12 gently used SCBA units for $3,500, a fraction of the new price.

This will give the fire department some “breathing” room to try to find a grant or save up for the $100,000 it will take to buy new equipment to keep the firefighters safe while also complying with all of the requirements and regulations associated with SCBA.

Another component of the SCBA system is a compressed-air fill station. The most important part of a firefighter’s respiratory system protection is the quality of air that is contained in their SCBA cylinders. Having cylinders full of quality air is paramount, and this ultimately comes down to the fill station. The SCBA fill station refers to a system composed of a high-pressure air compressor with a 10-horse electric motor, air purification system, refill station, storage system, and all operating controls and appliances. These can be integrated into one cabinet that work in concert with each other or can be individual components, but either way, you are talking about a $50,000 price tag.

The Castle Valley Fire Department has a small air compressor that has been inadequate and not able to produce air to meet minimum standards of quality, so it will be replaced with an air system that the department can afford.

This past week the department took possession of an air system that is housed in an enclosed trailer and the system was developed and installed by air professionals in Salt Lake City. The trailer contains six large 7,000-psi bottles that employ a cascade system that connects to a manifold with pressure gauges, valves and high-pressure hoses that connect to each large bottle.

The air system will fill over 60 individual SCBA cylinders and will give the department an opportunity to do more SCBA training without the worry of using up all of the air with no easy way to refill the cylinders. The trailer will be taken to Moab about once a year to be filled by the personnel at the Moab Fire Department using their large air-filling station.

Forty years ago this week this column reported that Grand County Assessor Norma Stocks was a guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Castle Valley River Ranchos Property Owners Association. She was invited here to answer questions regarding whether taxes would be increased if the county were to take over and maintain Castle Valley Drive.

Board member Walter Cluff was spearheading a drive to dedicate the main road to the county, but some expressed concerns about the increase of taxes. Stocks said that taxes would be affected very little as the extra cost would be absorbed by the entire county.

In other POA business during that long ago meeting, board Chairman Hersel Nokes said that Shafer Lane would be closed at the end of the road where it goes through private property. Shafer Lane had been used as an alternate exit out of the valley when Castle Valley Drive was impassable at Castle Creek because of muddy conditions or when the road was washed out. It was also used as a shortcut to the mountains.