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Fire chief troubled by new regs

Sundance’s firefighters plan to stand against “severe” new regulations proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), says Fire Chief Gari Gill.

“There’s quite a pushback throughout the nation on it,” he said last week.

The proposed rules were published in the Federal Register on February 5 and would replace the existing “Fire Brigades Standard” with one titled “Emergency Response”.

It would, according to the publication, “address a broader scope of emergency responders and would include programmatic elements to protect emergency responders from a variety of occupational hazards.”

Health and safety for emergency responders is currently regulated under a “patchwork” of hazard-specific standards and sometimes by state regulations, it says.

All OSHA standards were put in place decades ago and, says the proposed rule, “do not address the full range of hazards currently facing emergency responders, nor do they reflect major changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment or major improvements in safety and health practices that have already been accepted by the emergency response community.”

The proposed rules contain some “pretty severe stuff” that will strongly impact rural firefighting departments, Gill said.

They include a “full gamut of things,” he said, such as requirements for buildings and equipment.

Mayor Paul Brooks commented that he is tired of OSHA regulations making it harder for smaller communities to function.

He used the city’s daycare as an example, stating that it was built to the standards in place at that time with the best of intentions but, “They’ve done everything they could to regulate us out of business since the day we were done.”

He also spoke to the burden this places on volunteers, who he said already give up time with their families to serve their community and are then faced with “unrelenting” requirements.

Gill said he has already been in contact with the Wyoming Fire Chiefs Association and expects to know more in the next couple of months. He will attend a meeting in March that will also include the Rural Firefighters Association to begin work on putting together a response.

Along with a group of other states, he said, Wyoming is planning to “battle this tooth and nail”.