Two veteran Perry firefighters spoke at the November meeting of the Perry Lions Club.
Perry Volunteer Fire Department Chief Grason Hill and Assistant Fire Chief Dave Barkley, each with 30 years’ experience as firefighters, described the day-to-day operations of the city’s volunteer force.
Hill said the department currently has 23 members, six of whom are female. He said more firefighters are needed, but recruitment is difficult as well as training.
The Perry Volunteer Fire Department is an all-volunteer force, and many of the firefighters have day jobs outside of the Perry area. This can cause the fire department to be shorthanded at times during weekdays, a challenge faced by many small departments in rural Iowa.
Both Hill and Barkley praised the city of Perry for providing the fire department with top-quality equipment to fight fires and personal equipment to keep the firefighters safe. Examples included firefighters’ boots at $450 dollars a pair, air tanks and breathing equipment at about $15,000 per firefighter, a basic fire truck at about $750,000 and a hook-and-ladder truck at well over $1 million.
The firefighters described the practice burn that was held in September on an older house on the northeast side of Perry. The house was damaged by the derecho windstorm a few years ago and could not be repaired, so the structure was destroyed in a practice burn that also served to train recruits and practice using equipment in extinguishing a fire.
Sometimes a smoke machine is used for training purposes, Barkley said, in order to teach trainees the correct use of breathing equipment. Because of all the dangerous chemicals in smoke that are produced by a fire, the firefighters wear air tanks and breathing masks.
Chief Hill said fires burn quickly because of all of the petroleum-based products that are in houses and buildings. These petroleum-based items burn very hot and very fast and produce a lot of toxic fumes.
Perry Lion Rich Jones invited Hill and Barkley to the meeting and thanked them for their presentation.
Ray Harden is the secretary of the Perry Lions Club.