The Falls City Volunteer Fire Department was recently the recipient of a generous donation of bunker gear from a Kansas City-area firehouse, facilitated by area native and fireman Jon Gossman.
Gossman is a nearly 10-year veteran of Consolidated Fire District No. 2, which serves about 50,000 people in eight cities in northeast Johnson County, KS, and he and his flame-stomping brethren received new protective coats and pants, as CFD2 replaces its gear every eight years or so. The district has a Class 1 ISO Public Protection rating, which is the highest given to a fire service organization, and is based on the fire suppression capabilities of the firehouse. Gossman, who travels home for harvest every fall and stays up to date with happenings at the local Falls City Volunteer Fire Dept., was the catalyst for getting CFD2’s retired gear to the men in Falls City.
He called good friend Dan Wenz, a career firefighter in Lincoln, but a resident of Falls City who also serves on the FC Volunteer Fire Dept., and the two coordinated the donation.
On Jan. 22, Gossman, who serves as a member of the Bunker Gear Committee under Fire Chief Tony Lopez, delivered 19 sets of used bunker gear (coats and pants firefighters wear for protection) to the FC Volunteer Fire Dept.
Bunker gear is expensive. Depending on design, features, thermal and stress performance, a new thermal turnout coat can cost nearly $2,500, a single pair of pants run as much as $1,900 and a pair of fire boots will be anywhere from $200 to $700. Falls City Fire Chief Ken Simpson said the donation will hopefully allow the local department to spend some money on other needed equipment.
Simpson said he was grateful for the donated gear, noting it still has life in it, but also warned that it only serves as a band-aid to a budgetary issue fire departments across the country, especially volunteer departments in small towns with a limited tax base, face. When budget cuts are made, emergency services, including fire and EMS, are often the first to take the hit, Simpson said.
The National Fire Protection Association sets many safety standards for firefighter Personal Protection Equipment, with the requirement for heat/fire resistant clothing being able to withstand five minutes in an oven set at 500 degrees without igniting, melting, dripping or separating. The cost of equipping a firefighter with PPE (helmet, neck/ear hood, gloves, coat, pants, boots, radio and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus with mask) costs about $12,000. Adding a flashlight, set of irons and thermal imaging camera doubles that price.
“People do not realize how important these services are until they are needed, which often times is too late,” Simpson said.
But thanks to the firefighting native sons Gossman and Wenz, and the generosity of CFD2, the local fire department will likely only need to purchase helmets, boots, and gloves when new people join the department for at least a few years.
Chief Simpson expressed his thanks to both Gossman and Wenz for coordinating the donation of the gear.