Enel to help buy firefighter gear

Robert Smith

A collaboration between Pawhuska’s fire chief and the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce promises better protective gear for the city’s firefighters.

Joni Nash, executive director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce, said fire chief Gip Allen approached her about helping him find grant money so his department could afford new “bunker gear” — the protective suits that firefighters wear when they respond to a fire call in the community.

The Pawhuska Fire Department consists of 18 firefighters, including Chief Allen. There are eight full-time firefighters and 10 volunteers. They handle fire calls in the city, but they also go outside city limits to help with fire events like wildland fires.

Allen said it has been about 11 years since the last time the department got new bunker gear. Also, the Osage Nation provided some fire-retardant jumpsuit style protective gear about eight to nine years ago, he said.

Nash and Allen said Enel Energy set up a fund from which a portion of the money for the firefighter-gear purchase will come. Nash said she had been unsure how the proposal would be received, but the people making the decision were excited about helping.

“They loved it,” Nash said. She said interim Pawhuska city manager Larry Eulert had indicated the city could help with a portion of the cost, as well.

The working estimate for the overall cost of the purchase is $54,600. Nash and Allen did not immediately have figures for the exact breakdown of how much Enel would contribute and how much city government would be paying.

Nash emphasized how important Allen’s leadership had been to the effort to find funding for the new firefighter gear.

“Gip is always looking to better his department,” Nash said. “He said, ‘This is a need. I need to figure out how to make this happen.’”

Allen explained last Thursday that he was hoping to have a visit either Friday or soon thereafter from someone who would come to the Pawhuska Fire Department to get size information for the new gear. Allen said each firefighter is to receive two sets of gear, one for everyday urban firefighting and another for wildland fires. He said Monday that the taking of sizes didn’t happen Friday but was still expected to take place very soon.