Helping to improve the capabilities of the Scio Township Fire Department


A view of the north side of the Foster Road Bridge.

Solar energy, turnout gear extractor and a dry hydrant, the Scio Township Board made a few decisions at its July 26 meeting to help the township fire department and its capabilities.

The Sun Times News followed up with Scio Township Fire Chief Andrew Houde about these three topics and what they mean for the department.

With the solar energy project, Houde said the township board authorized the fire department to move forward issuing the RFP (Request for Proposals) for a solar project at the station. Houde said they will be sending this out to companies to bid on installing a solar array to power the fire station.

“We think that we can get a system installed that will meet 100 percent of the needs of the building with a return on investment of 5-7 years,” Houde explained. “We have several companies already interested in providing a bid for the project. We anticipate bringing this back to the board next month for final approval.”

While solar looks at efficiency, the request for a new turnout gear extractor looks at the safety and health of the firefighters.

In his report to the board, Houde said: “The outer garments (turnout gear) that firefighters wear are exposed to numerous cancer-causing contaminants throughout its lifetime. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has carefully designed standards for the construction and maintenance of firefighting turnout gear. In addition to cleaning at a minimum of 2X a year, regardless of use, turnout gear is required to be cleaned after every exposure to contamination. Often, this results in 10-12 cleanings per year per set of gear. Just the pant and jacket component cost approximately $2,600/set, the department maintains about 26 sets of turnout gear. Just the required 2X cleanings require us to fun $135,000 in turnout gear through a wash cycle annually.”

“To adequately clean the gear after use and perform its required 2X cleanings, we own a washer/extractor. This is a heavy-duty commercial washing machine that is programmed specifically for washing out turnout gear. They are tuned down in spin speed and have specific time of wash and temperature settings to effectively clean and decontaminate turnout gear. “

The issue in the Scio fire station is the extractor has seen better days, so the board authorized the purchase of a new one.

Houde said “This is a specially designed and programmed commercial washing machine to clean the firefighters turnout gear.”

He said standards require them to launder the gear two times a year and after every use on a fire scene.

“Our current extractor is 15-18 years old and is at the end of its life expectancy-additionally it has needed repairs more frequently as it ages,” he said. “This purchase should outlive the station as it is a more robust machine than the one we currently have.”

And finally, the dry hydrant decision takes into consideration fighting fires and in turn the safety of the community.

Houde said in his report, “Scio Township has significant areas of the community that do not have municipal water supply. This presents challenges for fire protection, when a fire occurs we have to bring water to the scene with water tankers. As the tankers water supply is used, they are required to travel to a water source to refill and return to the scene. Municipal water is the preferred method to refill, but any static water supply will work. Several areas have installed "dry hydrants" into static water supplies to speed up our ability to bring water to fire scenes.”

One area in need is across the historical Foster Road Bridge.

Houde said a dry hydrant is a PVC "suction tube" that is installed in a static water supply like a pond or the Huron River that firefighters can use to draw water from when there is a fire in the area and no municipal water available.

The township board authorized the Scio department to cost share on this install. Houde anticipates splitting the cost with the Washtenaw County Road Commission and Ann Arbor Township Fire Department.

“This is will be an important improvement in our capabilities (along with Ann Arbor Township) when fires occur anywhere off of Maple north of the Huron River,” said Houde. “Weight capacities of the Foster Road Bridge prevent us from driving our tankers across it, so we will be able to establish a water supply on the north side of the bridge, drawing water from the Huron River, when the dry hydrant is installed.”

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