MAHONING VALLEY Firemen tally loss of gear



Chemicals from the December fire were damaging to the suits and air packs firefighters used.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
POLAND -- Several area fire departments joined forces to battle a major fire at the Dream Pools store here in December without any loss of life, but loss of firefighter equipment to the blaze is substantial.
The Dream Pools & amp; Spas building went up in flames just before 2 a.m. Dec. 16. Firefighters from Poland Western Reserve Joint Fire District, Boardman, New Middletown, Lowellville, Springfield, Mahoning Township, Coitsville and Beaver Township spent more than four hours getting the fire under control.
Residents in the area surrounding the building were evacuated from their homes as fire and emergency management officials determined whether chemicals stored in the building were a health risk. The residents were allowed to return once it was determined that fumes from the pool chemicals were not toxic.
Looking at losses
Chief David Comstock Jr. said Western Reserve Joint Fire Department is looking at losses of more than $130,000 in air packs and protective clothing -- the largest dollar amount lost of the eight departments involved. The department is still adding up the total loss of miscellaneous items.
Joe Romeo, of the Boardman Township fire department, said that department is claiming losses of about $7,000 in gear.
Comstock said New Middletown, Lowellville and Springfield are also tallying up their losses.
According to Comstock, decontamination techniques generally used on fire equipment are not effective once that equipment has been exposed to chemicals such as chlorine, bromine salts and hydrochloric acid. He said it is recommended that the gear be retired and taken out of service.
Comstock said the departments have three options to replace the equipment -- their insurance companies, the business owner or emergency funds. Western Reserve's insurance company has been contacted and is reviewing the claim, he said.
The business owner, Comstock said, can be billed for the replacement cost. That, he said, has been tried in past situations with less-than-favorable results.
Last resort
As a last resort, he said Western Reserve has about $100,000 in emergency money set aside that could be used to replace some of that department's lost equipment. He said it is imperative that each department find some means of replacing equipment whether the insurance companies or owner pays or not.
Boardman Fire Chief James Dorman said even though the fire was in Poland, other departments will not expect Western Reserve to replace others' equipment. He said each department assumes responsibility for its own losses under the mutual aid agreement.
"This was a very expensive fire," said Comstock. "The sooner we can replace the equipment the better. It is important that our firefighters have the proper protective clothing and equipment so they can do their jobs safely and effectively. If the owner [of the business] doesn't pay or the insurance company doesn't pay, we could be in big trouble."
Comstock said his department has borrowed some equipment from the state, but several firefighters are still wearing the same equipment used in the pool-store fire because they have no choice.
jgoodwin@vindy.com

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