The Santa Barbara City Fire Dept. received a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security to install diesel exhaust filtration systems and improve labor conditions in local firehouses.
In a press release issued last week, Congresswoman Lois Capps announced that the SBCFD has been allocated $193,000 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The City of Santa Barbara will match 20 percent of this figure and install new diesel exhaust-removal systems in all of the city’s firehouses to protect firefighters from hazardous vehicle-exhaust fumes and particle emissions.
“This is great news for the City of Santa Barbara and the professional firefighters who work to keep our community safe every day,” Capps said in the press release. “I’m pleased this federal funding will be put to such an important use — ensuring the health and well-being of our firefighters while they are on the job. We owe these brave men and women nothing less while they are doing everything they can to keep our homes and businesses safe.”
Administrative Services Manager for the SBCFD Ronald Liechti said the funding will allow the stations to maintain as safe an environment as possible for their employees.
“Our firefighters’ health and safety will be directly enhanced by lessening their exposure to diesel exhaust, which is a known carcinogen, in fire stations where they work and live,” Liechti said in a statement.
According to Liechti, health complications remain a primary concern for many local fire stations.
“There has been some concern, yes,” Liechti said. “We had one of these diesel extraction systems put into Fire Station One upon its remodel, so when the federal government came out with this incentive to modify other fire stations, we went for it.”
Operations for Clean Air Concepts Vice President David Rossman said toxic emissions present a major threat to workers who operate vehicles in enclosed spaces.
“In normal operation, every shift change the personnel have to start the fire trucks and make sure that everything is active, and they are generally doing this in a facility where the doors are closed,” Rossman said.
Rossman said harmful fumes can be filtered through a hose system that attaches directly to a truck’s exhaust pipe or an alternative air cleaning system that takes up less space but is less efficient.
According to Congresswoman Capps’s Press Secretary Ashley Schapitl, the events of 9/11 inspired the federal government to increase similar grant funding to many California disaster-relief and first-response forces.
“This program was created shortly after September 11, and its goal is to prepare first responders at the local level to be able to handle any sort of disaster in their area,” Schapitl said. “Basically every fire department up and down the central coast has received a grant from this program at some point or another. It was first created to upgrade their equipment and make sure that they are better equipped to respond to anything they might face.”
The Santa Barbara City Fire Dept. plans to re-apply for additional federal grants in two months when new applications become available.