"We are fighting grass fires basically in our structure firefighting gear which is designed to go into burning buildings which would hold a lot more heat," Rupard said. "When you do that, you are talking about fighting heat exhaustion and keeping guys hydrated. Right now I'm going to get about 10 minutes out of good fight out of a guy at a grass fire before he's going to have to pull his jacket off and cool down."
"We're also burning the pant legs off and constantly having to have them repaired. This gear cost about $1,800 a suit so it's expensive to have it fixed," Rupard added.
Rupard told the fire board at its monthly meeting Monday that he had looked into the purchase of a lighter-weight NoMex (flame retardant) combination Wildland fire/extrication jumpsuit, which would be both safer for the firefighters and cheaper for the district, than having to constantly repair the expensive structural gear.
"Really we can kill two birds with one stone with this because the Wildland firefighting suit that this company (Bluegrass Fire Equipment) can offer is also an extrication suit for auto extrication's," Rupard said. "We are using our structural gear to answer these types of calls too and we are cutting gear, exposing them to blood-borne pathogens and fluids also."
The cost for the one-piece jumpsuit would be $247 per outfit with a $40 increase for sizes 2XL and 3XL, which Rupard said was a lot cheaper than replacing the structural gear and just as safe for grass fires.
"You can take and spend from $247 up to $296 to save an $1,800 pair of pants and jacket that we are wearing now," Rupard said. "Not only does it save money but it makes it a little bit easier to get these uniforms on and get the guys out fighting fires, keep them cooled, plus it keeps from tearing up the expensive gear."
"These are just as safe during a grass fire because your looking at 600 to 700 degrees you're walking up against where in a structural fire you're going to get 1,200 to 1,400 degrees inside a house," Rupard added.
Rupard said the district would need to purchase between 30 and 40 suits initially with more being purchased as needed when new firefighters come aboard.
The board agreed to purchase the suits with a maximum purchase price of less than $12,000. Rupard said the suits should be delivered within three to four weeks.