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Firefighters Get a Breather

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Firefighters are breathing a little easier now with the help of an insurance company. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. donated $11,159 to the East Alton Fire Department earlier this week so it could buy 15 self-contained breathing apparatus cylinders.

“The new SCBA tanks are replacing the old aluminum ones,” Fire Chief Randy Mortland said.

He said he appreciates the grant that Deborah Killebrew, an employee with the insurance company in East Alton, helped secure.

“Debbie grew up around the firehouse,” Mortland said. “Her dad, Bob Killebrew, is a retired POC (paid-on-call firefighter). He’s been retired for 18 years but still stops by the station about once a week for coffee.”

The money will be used to buy lightweight composite cylinders, which weigh 12 pounds less than the department’s current air tanks.

“The old ones weigh 21 pounds, and the new ones are 9 pounds,” Mortland said. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you wear it into a burning building, there’s a huge difference.”

Mortland said the department has eight composite tanks that are used by the five full-time firefighters and that the grant will be used to buy the 15 additional tanks for 13 paid-on-call firefighters.

“We’ll have a total of 23 now,” he said. “Plus a few extra.”

He said the compressed air in one of the cylinders lasts for about 30 minutes.

Several years ago, Killebrew said, Fireman’s Fund started a nationwide program called “The Heritage Program,” which invites employees to nominate fire departments that need equipment funding. She said she is thrilled her nomination was approved, because the company chose from among hundreds of employee nominations across the country and only 20 were selected.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance started operations in 1863 to collect money as a way to give back to the widows and children of fallen firefighters.

“The company is going back to its roots,” Killebrew said.

She said she is proud of the fact that her father served on the department. She said her sister and brother-in-law also serve as volunteer firefighters from neighboring departments.

“I know the sacrifice they make just to make our communities safe,” she said.

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