Adamsburg firefighters get boost from Kenny Ross Auto in effort to buy disinfecting machine

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Dec. 4—The Adamsburg fire chief wants to acquire a machine to disinfect safety gear to remove chemical residue and other fire-related contaminants that might pose a danger to a firefighter's health.

Instead of having firefighters clean their self-contained breathing apparatus, masks and personal safety gear by hand, Chief Don Thoma said he wants to raise money so that the Adamsburg and Community Volunteer Fire Department can purchase the dishwasher-style appliance that will cost about $25,000. The initiative has been dubbed "Project Breathe Clean."

"If we can prevent even one case of illness through proactive sanitization, it is worth every penny we might spend," Thoma said.

Without such an equipment sanitizing machine, Thoma said firefighters have to clean the safety gear by hand, getting into the cracks and crevices of material to remove the contaminants. That can expose firefighters to cancer-causing agents. Many firefighters have suffered severe health problems as a direct result of residue left on equipment from fighting a fire, Thoma said.

"It is my hope that we will be able to better protect the current and future members of this station moreso than we have ever done before," Thoma said.

The department already has a special washing machine to clean bunker gear that firefighters wear, Thoma said.

Thoma said he hopes the department will raise enough money to buy the equipment sanitizing machine next year. He is applying for grants to help pay for the equipment, the kind he hopes other Hempfield fire departments will acquire.

The fundraising efforts got a good start when Kenny Ross Ford donated $2,500 to the department in appreciation of the response to a Sept. 9 fire at the dealership at the intersection of Route 30 and Black Hills Road in Hempfield. Damages were limited because of the quick response, said Carley Painter, marketing director for Kenny Ross Auto Group.

Adamsburg was one of seven fire departments that responded to the fire in an outside furnace that caused smoke to fill the building, Thoma said.

"We could not have asked for a quicker response on the day of the fire, and we cannot express our gratitude for their selfless service," said Richard Crumlish, general manager of the Ford dealership.

The Adamsburg firefighters last month were invited to the dealership for a catered lunch, where they also were provided gifts and presented a donation check.

The dealership also has agreed to donate $50 to Adamsburg's Project Breathe Forward for every new Ford it sells in December, Crumlish said. The dealership typically sells about 70 new Fords in December, he said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, jnapsha@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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