New device at JCFD enhances firefighter safety

Published 11:06 am Thursday, July 11, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

JOHNSON CITY — The Johnson City Fire Department (JCFD) has become the first fire department in Tennessee to obtain a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) washer, a new device aimed at enhancing firefighter safety. Resembling a commercial dishwasher, this apparatus cleans much more than plates and saucers, effectively decontaminating essential firefighting gear.

Firefighters face a higher risk of being diagnosed with various forms of cancer due to exposure to hazardous chemicals and carcinogenic particles in the line of duty. Cleaning and decontaminating protective equipment after each use can significantly reduce this risk.

While the JCFD already uses specially designed washing machines (extractors) to remove hazardous materials from protective clothing, the addition of the SCBA washer allows the department to extend this thorough cleaning process to SCBAs, helmets, facemasks, gloves, and boots.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Investing in a SCBA washer is about prioritizing the health and safety of Johnson City firefighters,” said Chief David Bell. “Clean equipment means better performance and protection, allowing us to focus on saving lives and serving the community.”

The Last Call Foundation awarded the JCFD a grant covering half the cost of the Solo Rescue SCBA Washer, with the city matching the grant funding. The total cost of the SCBA washer exceeds $34,000.

The SCBA washer, now housed at Station 4 (800 W. Main St.), is currently being used to perform initial cleanings of all JCFD SCBAs. Moving forward, firefighters will use the SCBA washer after structure fires to ensure their breathing equipment remains clean and safe for use.

The washer holds 29 gallons of water and uses a specialized detergent to clean equipment at a desired temperature of 104 degrees. It is drained when the water becomes dirty, which typically occurs after 10 to 15 cycles. Depending on the items and amount of equipment being cleaned, each wash cycle lasts from three to eight minutes.