HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Fire Department has fully cycled through replacing its older and outdated air packs.
"They are absolutely a necessity, that's how we make entry to a building," said Hattiesburg Fire Training Officer Will Lewis. "If we don't have good air to breath we can't go inside and do interior attacks, to the depth that we need to go now a-days."
The department made two purchases, one order for 35 and the other for 15, with a total cost of roughly $30,000.
"Each air pack has a backpack assembly, as we call it a harness assembly, it's a metal frame that the air cylinder fits into it," Lewis said. "It's 4,500 pounds of pressure in that cylinder, roughly it gives you 45 minutes of rated time on it. Now actual work time in a fire, you're looking between 20 and 30 minutes of actual work."
Lewis said the air packs and their quality are a firefighter's main lifeline.
"They absolutely have to be functioning 100 percent of the time when a firefighter puts it on," he said. "If they put it on and it has a malfunction and they are inside a fire, chances are we will lose that firefighter."
He added that it's not just the smoke and fire that causes issues when fighting a fire.
"That and the level of toxicity and carcinogens that are known in smoke, now from the heavy plastics that are in most construction materials, they cause cancer and they kill firemen every year," Lewis said.
The department has been working with air packs that were in dire need of replacement, and with an emergency order, the new ones started rolling in.
"On an annual basis, we do checks on them every morning," Lewis said. "Every firefighter checks that pack every morning to make sure it's functioning. It's as important as the fire truck and their personal protective clothing, it's that vital."
According to department officials, the new packs will last roughly 10 years, depending on their amount of use and wear and tear.