The Meadow Lake fire department hopes to be breathing easy when city council passes its 2022 budget this Monday evening (Jan. 10).

That’s because the department is in need of a new air supply system to assist firefighters when responding to calls, particularly at the local mills and other industrial settings.

“The main objective is an improved breathing air supply,” remarked fire chief Neil Marsh. “We have a compressor here now, but it needs to be upgraded. If we can upgrade the capacity to compress air and store more of it, when we respond to a fire at a mill, or anywhere for that matter, we will have less of a breathing air shortage.”

According to Marsh, the overall cost to upgrade the system is about $150,000. Prior to Christmas, $10,000 was donated by Tolko Industries toward the new system.

“We’ve had a few large fires out at Tolko that have lasted six or eight hours if not more,” noted Scott Chuckrey of Tolko Industries and who also serves as a local firefighter. “When you have an event like that and 10-15 people are using air, you tend to go through the supply rather quickly.”

The plan, Marsh added, is to install the larger, more up-to-date system that will allow more air cylinders to be filled at one time which can then, in turn, be stored on a trailer and taken to the scene of a fire as needed.

“With the help of city council and sponsors like Tolko, our goal is to have a larger compressor that can produce air at a higher pressure and more of it, and a larger Cascade system that can store a higher volume of air,” Marsh reiterated. “We will find out if this can go ahead this year come the Jan. 10 council meeting when the 2022 budget is approved.”

Marsh also said the fire department is regularly called to the local mills to offer assistance.

“We have been out to all of the mills on quite a few occasions,” he said. “There is an obvious need and we hope to be able to address that need a little more effectively with some upgraded equipment. Right now, if we run out of air, it’s an hour round trip plus the filling time here. If we have more cylinders in a trailer we can take out to the mill, it would save a lot of time and, hopefully, save a lot of stuff too.”

by Phil Ambroziak