Grand Lake Fire offers historic bunker gear to public in fundraising effort |

Grand Lake Fire offers historic bunker gear to public in fundraising effort

Grand Lake is a place of storied history and this spring local citizens can secure a tangible piece of that history themselves as part of a bunker gear donation program being initiated by the local fire district.

Each year the volunteer firefighters, residents and career staff of the Grand Lake Fire District put themselves on the line to protect the lives and property of local citizens. Their ability to do their jobs relies on a complex system of education and communication, all of which is made possible through the specialized gear and equipment firefighters rely upon.

Officials from the Grand Lake Fire District are preparing to undergo a massive turnover on personal firefighting equipment, often referred to as bunker gear or turnout gear. District Engineer Anthony “Cooper” Knochenmus said firefighting bunker gear typically has a 10-year life span before it must be replaced. According to Knochenmus all but two sets of Grand Lake Fire’s bunker gear are set to expire this year.

Grand Lake Fire has a grant request in place to secure $50,000 in funding for new bunker gear and as such the department is looking to clear out its older equipment. Beginning this week Grand Lake Fire Protection District will be giving away close to 100 pieces of individual firefighter bunker gear to the public on a first come first serve basis. Overall Knochenmus estimated that the department has roughly 40 pairs of boots, around 30 different helmets, and over a dozen sets of both firefighting jackets and pants.

“We have tons of gear just lying around,” explained Knochenmus. “I thought this would give us an opportunity to give back to the community. As part of that we have picked up the AED Safe Community Initiative. We plan to donate gear to the community and give them the opportunity to donate to the department.”

Under the gear donation program Grand Lake Fire is initiating this year citizens who pick up the free used bunker gear will be offered the opportunity to donate to the Fire District for the specific purpose of raising funds for an expanded AED, or automated external defibrillator, program.

The department is looking to raise roughly $13,000 in local donations to purchase and install six new AEDs in public spaces around the community. Each new AED costs $1,275 with an additional $650 for the device’s enclosure, $108 for infant and child electro pads and additional costs related to installation and electrical wiring. Department officials hope to have the new AED’s purchased and installed before the start of the summer season, if they can raise the necessary funds.

All funds raised by Grand Lake Fire that are accepted while the department donates its old bunker gear will go directly towards the AED program, Knochenmus said. The fundraising goal also includes additional funds that would be held in reserve to purchase additional electro pads, which Knochenmus said have a limited lifespan, even in absence of use.

“Currently there are five of them (AEDs) in Grand Lake,” Knochenmus explained. “But they are located within businesses. These funds would help us purchase the AEDs and their enclosures.”

According to Knochenmus the new AED’s in Grand Lake will be placed at strategic public locations where the department tends to see higher call volume, or at locations that are common public gathering places. The five already existing AED’s are located inside at the Grand Lake Fire House, Grand Lake Community Center, Trinity Church in the Pines, Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre and Grand Lake Town Hall. The District is looking to install new outdoor AED’s at Grand Lake Town Park, Grand Lake Beach, Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, Point Park, North Inlet Trailhead and East Inlet Trailhead.

Knochenmus was quick to note that former Grand Lake Fire Lt. Blake Mertz had initiated the department’s expanded AED program in previous years before leaving Grand Lake to take a position in a different department.

“We are trying to help keep the community safe,” Knochenmus said. “When we run calls people are always shocked at how quickly we are able to get there. But with a cardiac arrest seconds count. This is geared towards bystander rescue. If this can be deployed in seconds, it is a lifesaver.”

Anyone interested in picking up some of the gear can contact the Grand Lake Fire District during regular weekday hours or by contacting Knochenmus via his email

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