Troup County Sheriff’s Office given green light to apply for firefighter assistance grants

Published 4:36 pm Friday, February 21, 2020

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The Troup County Board of Commissioner gave the Troup County Fire Department the green light to apply for three grants totaling more than half a million dollars.

The grants would be geared toward firefighter safety before, during and after combating any blaze in the county.

Troup County Fire Chief John Ekaitis said the first two grants are meant to prevent firefighters from getting cancer. According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population.

According to the protection association, firefighters are exposed to contaminates, which soil their personal protective equipment. In turn, that equipment then cross-contaminates everything it comes in contact with.

Due to the contamination, the gear needs to be cleaned more often, but Ekaitis said the county fire department only has one washer-extractor to clean the equipment.

“We have over 60 firefighters, and the washer-extractor can only clean two sets at a time, and we have no dryers,” he said.

The first grant application would apply for the three additional washers and three dryers. Ekaitis said the fire department currently hangs up the equipment and lets it air dry after being washed.

The NFPA said even though turnout clothing is being cleaned more often, it is still not known if current or new cleaning procedures adequately remove such contaminants.

The grant for washers and dryers would be for $46,000 and would require a 10 percent match of $4,600 from the county.

“If we were awarded the three washer-extractors and dryers, one would be placed at the Hogansville fire station, one will be placed at Station 1 and one would be placed at Station 4.

“These extractors would be strategically located throughout the county where firefighters can come and wash their turnout gear,” Ekaitis said.

The next grant would be for 12 exhaust systems that catches all the exhaust fumes from a departing fire truck and filters them out of the building.

Ekaitis said the firefighters sleeping quarters are right next to the bay where the fire trucks are held.

“Those fumes that come in at not only getting into their regular clothes, it’s getting in their bed and everything else like that,” he said.

That grant would be $200,000, meaning the county would need to kick in $20,000 for its match.

The final grant would be a regional grant between Troup County, West Point Fire Department and the LaGrange Fire Department for an air and light truck.

Ekaitis said the truck would have the capabilities to provide lights on emergency scenes and also be able to fill self-contained breathing apparatuses on the scene of major fires.

“This way, we can fill up bottles on the fire scene,” he said. “As I’ve learned since I’ve been here, we get very, very close to not having any SCBA bottles left on the fire scene to do any interior attacks, or during salvage and overhaul.”

Ekaitis said the air and light truck would respond to every structure fire and hazmat incident within the county.

He said the county hopes to learn if they get the grants by the end of June.