Fire Wire: Giving and Gratitude, Steese Fire Department receives equipment from foundation

The fire chiefs at Steese Fire Department show Greg and Catharine Persinger an extractor that...
The fire chiefs at Steese Fire Department show Greg and Catharine Persinger an extractor that was purchased with a grant from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The Persingers own the Firehouse Subs franchise in Alaska. (John Dougherty/KTVF) (KTVF)
Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 1:52 PM AKDT
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The Steese Fire Department was recently able to purchase an extractor for their station with the help of a grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The extractor is used to clean toxic chemicals out of firefighters' gear after fighting a fire.

Noah Hamm is a lieutenant with the Steese Fire Department, and says the extractor is basically a commercial washing machine that is used to wash their gear after a fire. “With everything in building construction today, what is released in a fire [includes] benzene and hydrocarbons and all sorts of carcinogens and things that we don’t want to bring home with us or get absorbed into our bodies,” Hamm said.

The extractor is able to remove those chemicals which reduces the risk of getting cancers that firefighters often face.

The money for the $11,000 dollar extractor came from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. According to Catharine Persinger, who owns the Firehouse subs in Alaska with her husband, the foundation has donated over $50 million since being started after Hurricane Katrina. A majority of the money to donate comes from people rounding up on their orders and buying the pickle buckets.

Persinger said the Fairbanks store has already raised over $79,000 for the foundation, and Fairbanks area fire departments have already received five grants. “One of the great things about receiving these grants is really everybody in the community that’s ever rounded up at our restaurant has a part in this life saving equipment that comes back in our community.”

She said one reason she and her husband decided to start a franchise in Alaska was because of the help it brought to the community.

Hamm said the grant was helpful. “We are always a little bit tight on the budget with everything we need to buy for our equipment, and the extractor I think cost about $11,000 -- so it was a pretty big deal to get the funding to get that installed.”

He added that they will now be able to clean their protective clothing much faster, ensuring they always have safe gear for a fire.

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