Firefighters get new safety gear

Published 6:20 am Friday, November 18, 2011

DECATUR COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE recently purchased a new firefighting suit for “Sparky the Fire Dog,” a dalmation mascot who helps teach fire safety lessons to local children. From left to right are Fire and Rescue Chief Charlie McCann, “Sparky” and firefighter David Donalson.

Decatur County Fire and Rescue recently received some new gear that will help firefighters’ mission to prevent and respond to fires.

Perhaps the most visible of the new gear is the colorful firefighting suit worn by “Sparky the Fire Dog,” the Dalmatian mascot that teaches children about household safety that could help them prevent fires or escape from them.

Sparky and county firefighters routinely visit local elementary schools, churches and community events for safety presentations. Some of the topics covered include making sure each family’s home has a working smoke detector, organizing a home escape plan and the danger of playing with lighters or matches, said David Donalson, a firefighter with Fire and Rescue.

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“You’d be suprised how many adults come up to us and tell us they remember Sparky coming to their school and how they remember what he said,” said Fire and Rescue Chief Charlie McCann, who has been a firefighter for 30 years. “Sparky is friendly and makes the fire safety lessons fun for the kids.”

Sparky has always had a firefighting suit, but recently, money was raised to buy a newer, nicer one, McCann said. Donations from the Bainbridge Woodmen of the World chapter and money raised from boat races that local firefighters organized helped raise the money needed for the new suit, he said.

Sparky the Fire Dog has a kids-friendly website at To arrange to have Sparky visit a school, church or other kids’ group, call Fire and Rescue at (229) 248-3011.


Air packs save firefighters’ lives

The other new gear being used by county firefighters are air packs that will be used for training purposes. The used-but-still-working air packs were donated by Bainbridge Public Safety to Fire and Rescue, which will distribute some of them to volunteer fire departments.

The air packs are self-contained breathing apparatuses that provide firefighters with oxygen while they are in dangerous situations.

“We do live fire training once a month at the Industrial Air Park,” Chief McCann said. “One of the old hangars has been set up like a house with different rooms, to simulate real firefighting situations.”

While the donated air packs will just be used for training, the air packs that are kept on Fire and Rescue’s engines and rescue truck are a vital piece of firefighters’ equipment.

In addition to giving firefighters clean air in smoky situations, they also serve to keep firefighters linked together in a “buddy system” of sorts. Each of the air tanks has a device that sets off a loud, repeating beep alarm if a firefighter has not moved for 30 seconds. The noise lets other firefighters know to check on their comrades and keys them in to where to find a firefighter who may be injured or succumbed to heat or smoke.

The air tanks also are equipped with a whistle or bell that lets firefighters know when they only have five minutes left of oxygen. The fire trucks are loaded with backup air tanks and the department’s rescue truck has equipment that lets tanks be refilled with air at the scene of a fire.