Following up on the issue of the cost of cleaning local firefighters gear, The Valley Reporter reached out to Craig Snell, assistant fire chief for the Waitsfield Fayston Volunteer Fire Department.





Per state and federal regulations, firefighters’ turn out gear must be washed with a specific type of washing machine extractor capable of removing the carcinogens and other toxins firefighters are exposed to when fighting fires. In November 2021 the Snell said that the Waitsfield Fayston Fire Department was granted an extractor from the Leary Foundation.

“Soon after we received notice of the award, we notified the Waitsfield Select board,” Snell said.


That extractor arrived in early 2022, an $8000 piece of equipment funded the Leary Foundation. Firefighters intended to hook up the extractor to the septic system at the firehouse -which Snell said other fire departments do.

“At some point, a former member of the Waitsfield Select Board contacted the state's environmental division and asked for guidance on how to handle this issue.  The state said that they were unaware of this type of machine, and we'd have to have a study performed and engage an engineering firm.  We are now a pilot project for the state because what we are trying to do has never been done, according to the state,” Snell said.

That was in 2022. Since that time the town engaged Grenier Engineering Consultants who worked with the state and determined that to protect the Mad River and groundwater, the wastewater from washing the gear should not go into the regular system at the fire department and projected some $20,000 to do that work. It was not until this spring that the town issued an RFP for the work. Only one proposal for installing the tank was received, at $79,000 and last week the town re-issued the RFP.





At last week’s select board hearing the board reviewed a memo from town treasurer Randy Brittingham comparing the costs of installing and maintaining a tank compared to contracting with Redline, a company with mobile turnout gear washing capacity. Over a 12-year period, Brittingham estimated that the cost of the tank option might be $104,000 while the cost of using a company like Redline would be $79,200. That was based on having Redline come twice a year.

Snell said that firefighters did not agree with that suggestion. He said that the 12-year estimates were inaccurate because the gear needs to be washed after every fire and there is no way to predict how many car or structure fires will occur each year.


“Assuming five cleanings per year, Redline would cost $216,000 over twelve years and using the extractor – including two annual cleanings and inspections – over 12 years would be $188,000,” Snell said.

That $188,000 includes the cost of installing the tank.

Snell said it’s been frustrating for firefighters that getting the tank installed and the extractor in use has taken so long.

‘Firefighter safety is our highest priority.  Cancer is one of the leading causes of firefighter death.  After a fire, our gear could be covered in carcinogens.  There are currently a few members who have or have had cancer.  We are not saying that this is because of the extractor issue but it raises our concerns,” Snell said.

He said that in the interim, the department had used Redline for cleaning twice and said it is a decent solution but that it takes about a week to get to Waitsfield to clean the gear and said that if there is another fire during that window, firefighters are wearing potentially contaminated gear.