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Tempe Fire Department prepares for more high-rise situations

TEMPE, Ariz. — As the City of Tempe continues to build upward, firefighters are more often preparing for the different challenges and situations that might occur inside those buildings.

On Tuesday, Tempe Fire Department announced it began training on a new system donated to the department that aims to make refilling oxygen tanks on the backs of firefighters simpler and faster.

“You need two things in a fire in a high-rise building, you need water and you need air,” said Tony Touriello, CEO of RescueAir, which donated the $45,000 system to Tempe’s Fire Training Center.

Similarly to the way pipes are built into the buildings that allow fire trucks to supply water to firefighters on upper floors, the Firefighter Air Replenishment System, also called FARS, allows crews to refill tanks inside the building rather than having to carry extra tanks or constantly having crews carrying replenished tanks to those battling the fire.

“They’ve got about 15 to 17 minutes of useable air,” Touriello said. That can easily run short as firefighters are climbing multiple floors of a tall building.

The FARS system works by taking a compressed air line from the truck’s air supply and connecting it to a ground floor, wall-mounted unit that is connected to similar units every third floor. Crews can then use those stations to refill their tanks.

“So (firefighters) are no more than two floors away, if they’re up on the 18th floor — or the 28th floor, they can drop down to 25 or what have you, so they’re really close (to) where they need it,” Touriello said.

The first FARS system in the Valley was installed in Phoenix in 2004 and since then, many cities have begun to require its installation on new developments and Tempe is no different. The city has amended its fire codes to require a FARS system in any building reaching more than 75 feet, or roughly seven stories according to Tempe Fire Chief Greg Ruiz, and the stations must be placed on every third floor.

Ruiz said the donation made to the Tempe Fire Department by RescueAir will have a larger effect on the Valley than just providing practice equipment to Tempe crews.

“All of our East Valley partners that will be on these events with us can come here an train on the systems and I believe its going to better prepare and protect our firefighters should they have to operate in those high-rise buildings,” he said.

Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell attended a demonstration of the system at the city’s Fire Training Center and said systems like FARS will potentially save lives in an incident that could occur in one of Tempe’s growing number of high-rises.

“As Tempe continues to grow up and skyward, it’s imperative that we provide our emergency responders with the kind of equipment and training that protects them and fighting a single-story fire is a lot different than fighting a blaze of a 10-story building,” Mitchell said.