Weather Forecast


Bemidji Fire Department receives grant, purchases new breathing equipment

Christmas came a little early for the Bemidji Fire Department.

The Fire Department recently received new breathing equipment courtesy of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant and supporting funds from the city of Bemidji and the Bemidji Pioneer Volunteer Fire Fighters Relief Association.

Totaling about $120,000, the money allowed for the purchase of 33 new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) air packs, 33 back-up tanks and 46 breathing masks.

The new equipment will be operational on Wednesday.

Once in use, Bemidji firefighters will all utilize the same air packs as one another. SCBA packs currently in use have been purchased in different years or at different times.

"They will now all be the same," said firefighter/emergency medical technician Mitch Howe. "Right now we have a hodgepodge."

An added bonus for firefighters is that the new masks will all be assigned to a specific firefighter and will be adjusted and fitted for that individual's face. The masks now being used are in the fire trucks, and firefighters use whichever masks are available.

The new SCBA packs contain about 45 minutes of air, compared to 25 minutes in an older model, Howe said.

Also, they are equipped with alert systems and added features. The pack has an inertia sensor that will go off if it does not detect movement for more than 20 seconds.

"You can also hold down (a) button and set it off manually," Howe said.

Additionally, the pack has a temperature gauge and calculates how much air remains in the SCPA pack - and how much time a firefighter has until the air runs out.

This feature is linked to the firefighters' masks as well, which are equipped with lighted warning systems that alert the firefighter to his or her remaining air supply.

Howe said the SCBA packs are similar to those already in the department's possession, so in-depth training is not required. But, due to added features, firefighters will receive instruction on using the new equipment.

Nielson grant

The Fire Department also received notice this year that it received a $13,000 grant from the Nielson Foundation for the purchase of new medical equipment.

The department used the funds to obtain a new heart monitor/defibrillator, backboards and other medical equipment.

Additionally, the grant allowed the Fire Department to purchase new technology that can monitor an individual's oxygen concentration and carbon monoxide concentration through that person's fingertip.

The device might be used during a call to check the carbon monoxide levels in a residence, Howe said. If a resident appears to be ill, the technology could determine if he or she is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

It also could be used on a firefighter, if needed, he said.