Bristol board agrees to fund new firefighter gear

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard on Dec. 18 approved funding for the Bristol Fire Department to purchase six new vehicle extrication coveralls.
Brett LaRose, the first assistant chief of the outfit, said that the fire department had previously purchased 30 suits, but some have been removed from service due to wear and tear.
LaRose said that he spoke with several vendors, and the best quote he received for the coveralls was $2,772. The selectboard approved an appropriation in that amount.
Extrication coveralls are different from the gear firefighters usually wear, as it is necessary for personnel to move freely in tight spaces.
“The coveralls provide versatility and mobility,” LaRose said. “The traditional gear — puffy coats and pants — is bulky and difficult to move around in when you’re working with crushed cars.”
LaRose added that the coveralls immediately identify who is a certified extraction technician at a hectic crash scene. They are designed to last 10 years, but their longevity depends on how often they are used, LaRose said.
Vehicle extrication is a delicate process that requires additional training.
“To be in the fire department, you don’t need the extrication training,” LaRose said. “But, the majority of our personnel choose to take on the extra responsibility and training to do it.”
To be certified, firefighters take an 18-hour course with the Vermont Fire Service Training Council. Six hours are spent in the classroom, and the remaining 12 in the field.
The Bristol Rescue Squad began providing extrication services in the mid-1980s. About 10 years ago, the Bristol Fire Department took on this role, LaRose said.
Up until this point, the vehicle extrication service the fire department provides has not cost taxpayers a cent. Previous purchases of equipment have been funding by the private N.H. Munsill Hook and Ladder Company, and through grants.
The fire department used these funds to purchase new hydraulic tools and 30 pairs of extrication coveralls, all at no cost to the town, LaRose said. Over time, some of these suits became worn and need to be replaced.
Last year, the Bristol Fire Department responded to 115 calls, 30 of which were motor vehicle accidents. Those figures include mutual aid calls, where the department responds to neighboring communities.
LaRose said it is important that the department stay up to date with firefighting practices and have the proper equipment.
“In order to stay viable, you need to stay up with current standards,” LaRose said. “You don’t see the high volume of house and structure fires that you used to; now there are different types of calls.”
LaRose noted this is the first time the department has asked for taxpayer funds for their extrication services.
“We appreciate the support of the selectboard and taxpayers,” LaRose said. “We work hard to help alleviate the burden from the taxpayer.”

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