Florida Firefighters Getting Hi-Tech Equipment At Fire Stations

In a move to protect the firefighters and paramedics who keep Oakland Park safe, city commissioners agreed to outfit the city's three fire stations with high-tech safety equipment.

Firefighters will breathe cleaner air and get early warning of potential firehouse fires with vehicle exhaust removal and fire alarm systems that will soon be installed at the stations, at 301 NE 38th St., 4721 NW Ninth Ave. and 2100 NW 39th St.

Fire Chief Don Widing said the gear's purchase is funded mostly by a $141,205 grant from the U.S. Fire Administration.

Vehicle exhaust systems will protect 70 firefighters from the dangers of breathing fire truck fumes, Widing said.

"It's like having a diesel engine in your living room," Widing said, describing how dangerous firehouse air can be. "Firefighters practically live in the station for a third of their lives. Every time a truck starts up, exhaust is released into the garage. If the air isn't filtered, it has a cumulative effect."

The new system is like "a big scrubber," he said. "Contaminants in the exhaust fumes will mostly get filtered out."

Fire stations will also get wired with state-of-the-art alarm systems, protecting the sites from what some consider an unlikely enemy: fire.

"There are some statistics out there that show how many fire stations burn down. It's embarrassing," Widing said. "This [alarm] system is going to be hardwired. We won't have to rely on battery smoke detectors."

The new devices are part of Oakland Park's push to get its fire department in line with national safety standards.

"We want to improve the safety and health of our firefighters," Widing said, adding that the new equipment should be installed in about three months.