OTHO - The volunteer firefighters in Otho are responding to emergencies wearing new protective clothing, and they're using two vehicles that are new to their department.
A federal grant covered most of the cost of the protective clothing, while a state loan paid for a rig equipped to fight brush and field fires. The other vehicle, which is loaded with emergency medical gear, is on loan to Otho through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
In April, the Fire Department received a $36,632 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the new protective clothing, which is called turnout gear or bunker gear.
Fire Chief Marty Smith said a set consisting of a coat, pants, boots and a helmet costs $2,410.
''It's expensive stuff,'' he said.
Smith added that the National Fire Protection Association requires departments to replace the protective clothing every 10 years. That's a major challenge, he said, for a small department like Otho's which has a roughly $30,000 annual budget.
The grant paid for 95 percent of the cost of 16 sets of turnout gear. The Fire Department contributed $1,928 for the purchase.
The coats and pants were made by Veridian, of Spencer.
Smith said the gear was delivered in late July, and the firefighters picked up their sets during the first week of August.
The first major test of the new clothing occurred during a house fire Sunday morning on Old Highway 169.
''It really proved out,'' Smith said.
''It's so much more flexible than the older gear,'' he added. ''In other words, you can move around.''
The department received a $27,000 loan through the equipment revolving loan fund managed by the state fire marshal's office to pay for its new brush fire truck. It's a 1995 Dodge Ram with a Cummins diesel engine and a 300-gallon water tank.
Smith said it can pump water while it's moving, enabling the firefighters to drive along the edge of a big field fire and spray water onto the flames. A conventional fire truck has to be parked in order to pump water.
The vehicle replaces a 1978 Ford.
The new truck was purchased from Art's Trucks and Equipment in McAllen, Texas.
The department's other new vehicle is a 1996 Chevrolet that served as an ambulance in Pacific Junction. It will not be used as an ambulance in Otho, but it will carry the department's medical gear and serve as a place where firefighters can take a break at fire scene while being sheltered from heat, cold or other bad weather.
It was provided free to Otho through the Forestry Division of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
''It's ours to use as long as we want to use it,'' Smith said.
That unit replaces a 1992 model that will be sold.