New Uniform Grant Will Protect the Ones that Protect West Texas

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

When the sirens sound and the flames rise, they're the first ones to the scene. Midland firefighters suit up several times each day, and often spend hours in uniforms that aren't designed to fight West Texas wildfires, but things are about to change.

The latest City Council meeting had the fire department splashed all over the agenda. One of the most important items, is what to do about their uniforms. A new grant will provide better wildfire equipment which will help keep West Texas and the firefighters that protect us safer.

"The guys have to take breaks more often, they become tired very quickly, we go through a lot of water, and there's always a danger of heat-related injuries," Chief Russ Conley with the Midland Fire Department said. "We're trying to prevent that from happening."

The federal grant covers 80% of the costs leaving the city to foot the rest of the bill.

"We are having more grassfires than we used to, so it's a good thing we got the grant and able to outfit our firefighters with wildland firefighting gear," Chief Conley said.

The new garb comes with a $66,000 price tag.  New federal regulations require it to be replaced every ten years, whether it's worn out or not.

"That has put a burden of replacing this gear on all the different fire departments," Chief Conley said. "This gear is not cheap, it's very expensive. So the next grant we're applying for is to provide a second set of bunker firefighting gear for all of our firefighters."

NewsWest 9 put it to the test and the sheer weight of their uniforms tells the story: the structure firefighting gear weighs a whopping 13 pounds. The new wildfire uniform weighs only 2 pounds, keeping them cooler and reducing fatigue. 

The City Council just approved a new opportunity to replace their exhaust system that'll protect the firefighters from harmful vapors coming out of the trucks. And not only is the department getting new gear, but soon they'll have new radio equipment as well, improving their communication with the Sheriff's office and area volunteer fire departments.