"It’s a big deal for us," Battalion Chief John Menassa said. "It’s a technology that’s been around for a while, but it’s just been cost prohibitive."
The Back-In Track Vehicle Exhaust Removal System hangs from the ceiling of a fire station with a long hose coming out. Firefighters will connect the hose to the tail pipe of their trucks to suck up the exhaust fumes that are produced when the trucks idle inside the station. The hose will disconnect as the trucks drive out of the station.
"All of our gear is in the bay area with the trucks, and the carcinogens in the exhaust tend to collect on our gear," Menassa said. "This system protects the building and the firefighters' clothing."
Menassa said carcinogens from the trucks' exhausts build up on the gear over time—especially since the uniforms are laundered about once a year.
"If you wash it frequently, you end up tearing it up and wearing it out faster," Menassa said.
Newer fire engines have cleaner emissions that also eliminate the health risk, but Menassa said replacing the city's fleet isn't in the realm of possibilities.
"It's going to be a while before those trucks come into our stations," Menassa said.
As a condition of FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, Annapolis committed a 10 percent funding match to complete the improvements.
The federal grant program has been a part of FEMA since 2001. It provides money to firefighters and other first responders across the country so they can buy equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles and other needed resources. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Towson) helped bolster the city's application by writing to the agency on Annapolis' behalf.
“Our first responders are ready to accept certain risks to keep our communities safe,” Sarbanes wrote in his letter. “We must provide them with adequate resources to ensure their safety is not unnecessarily compromised by faulty equipment or aging buildings.”
Menassa said the new systems should be installed by the summer of 2013.