POWERS — Like a milk carton or a quarterback’s knees, firefighting gear comes with an expiration date. That means keeping current with safety standards can strain a small town’s budget.
That’s certainly true in Powers, a Coos County town with about 700 residents and chronic economic hardships. But thanks to a $22,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund, Powers soon will outfit its volunteer fire department with all-new “turnouts” to replace its increasingly antiquated gear.
“New turnout gear will be critical, not only to the safety of the firefighters, but also to the safety of those who live in or visit the area,” said Community Fund Assistant Jackie Chambers. “We are happy to help fund this much-needed equipment to help with the safety of all involved.”
“It makes it a lot easier to run a little department like this,” added Fire Chief Mitchell Allen.
The grant is one of 44 being awarded by the Coquille Tribal Fund for 2017. The fund will distribute more than $360,000 to Southwest Oregon nonprofits and government agencies this week, raising the fund’s total to almost $5.9 million since 2001. It’s the Coos Bay area’s biggest local grant source.
With an annual budget of about $40,000, the Powers Fire Department has little to spare for updating its trucks, radio gear, and other equipment and supplies. Allen said outfitting a single firefighter costs about $1,500.
A turnout ensemble includes a coat, trousers, gloves, boots, helmet and fire-resistant hood. Allen plans to use the grant mainly for new trousers, jackets and gloves.
The department has about a dozen volunteers, with six to eight typically available to answer a call. The volunteers answer about one call a month in the winter, but the number rises to about one a week in the summer, due to brush fires and tourism-related vehicle crashes.
The volunteers have worn black to those calls for more than a decade, echoing the black and orange of the Powers High School Cruisers. But Allen said black turned out to be a poor choice in summer. The new turnouts will be khaki.