By Rusty Bradshaw
Sun City Fire and Medical Department officials are looking into a new filter system for its diesel-fueled apparatus.
The new system would eliminate more of the fuel exhaust left in the fire stations when trucks and ambulances leave for calls and return. It would also allow fire personnel to keep the filter operating if the vehicle must be kept running at the scene of an incident, according to Rob Schmitz, Sun City Fire battalion chief.
“This is just another way for us to protect the health of our people,” he said during the Sun City Fire District’s April 9 special meeting.
In the past, department officials, with the district board’s approval, purchased a second set of turnouts for firefighters, acquired safer equipment and improved decontamination equipment and procedures to improve personnel health and safety.
Several studies have found that long-term, heavy exposure to diesel exhaust can cause lung cancer in lab animals such as rats, according to information on the American Cancer Society website, www.cancer.org. It’s not easy to study the possible health effects of diesel exhaust in people, partly because it is often hard to correctly define and measure the level of exposure and because it can also be hard to account for the other cancer risk factors that people exposed to diesel exhaust might have, such as smoking, according to the society website.
However, Sun City Fire officials would rather be safe than sorry.
Mr. Schmitz said a Ward Diesel No Smoke filter system would eliminate the elements in diesel exhaust that are thought to cause cancer. Ron Deadman, Sun City fire chief, said the proposed system would cost about $$8,800 per vehicle. Mr. Schmitz said 13 vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances were targeted in the proposal to the board.
“Our main concern is keeping our people as healthy as possible,” Mr. Deadman said.
Sun City Fire and Medical Department has a filtration system on its vehicles and in its fire stations now. But it is hard to get parts when a unit malfunctions and there are fewer people qualified to work on them.
“We looked into grants to fund this, but since we already have systems at all our stations we could not get a grant,” Mr. Schmitz said. “The grants are designed for those vehicles and stations that have no filtration systems already.”
The board was scheduled to consider the new filter system during its April 16 regular business meeting. Results of that meeting were not known at press time.
The board was also expected at the April 16 meeting to consider a new agreement with the Phoenix central dispatch center for computer-aided dispatch. The new agreement has some changes that will mean Sun City Fire officials will see an increase in dispatch costs.
In the past, if equipment purchased by the fire district related to dispatch was damaged or wore out, central dispatch covered the cost for repair or replacement, Mr. Deadman explained. The new agreement shifts that responsibility to the district.
“Phoenix dispatch was doing a lot of things for free, but now needs to control those costs,” Mr. Deadman said.
Every agency that has calls relayed by Phoenix dispatch will have the same new agreement, according to Mr. Deadman.
“They won’t have little tweaks for different agencies,” he said. “They wanted to avoid 27 different agreements.”