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Local

REG donates air monitoring equipment to NFD

Fire Marshall Mike Knoll of the Newton Fire Department compares two models of air monitoring equipment. The MSA Altair 4X Multigas Detector, left, was one of two devices donated by Renewable Energy Group, Inc. Monday, along with another MSA Calibration Gas Cylinder.
Fire Marshall Mike Knoll of the Newton Fire Department compares two models of air monitoring equipment. The MSA Altair 4X Multigas Detector, left, was one of two devices donated by Renewable Energy Group, Inc. Monday, along with another MSA Calibration Gas Cylinder.

The Newton Fire Department’s latest tool is about the size of a cell phone and fits perfectly in the palm of Fire Marshal Mike Knoll’s hand.

Despite its small proportions, the newly donated air monitoring device will help Newton’s firefighters conduct their jobs more safely and potentially save lives.

The device — called an MSA Altair 4X Multigas Detector — is an upgrade from the department’s previous model, which looks more like an oversized pager by comparison. Holding both devices in his hands and inspecting the size differences, Knoll just shook his head and smiled: “That’s technology.”

Two MSA Altair 4X Multigas Detectors and a MSA Calibration Gas Cylinder were donated in a presentation Monday to Knoll and his staff from the Newton Fire Department by Renewable Energy Group, Inc., a bio-diesel plant in Newton. REG, with its headquarters in Ames, provides cleaner burning and renewable fuel sources and is the largest supplier of advanced biofuels in North America.

“This is great,” Knoll said. “They’re about $700 a piece or more just for each monitor, and then the gas (cylinder) is around $200.”

REG Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator Joel Mills said the donated equipment can detect a variety of hazardous air pollutants prior to performing work in particular areas.

“They’ll use that equipment to make sure the air that they’re breathing is, in fact, safe,” Mills said. “That calibration gas (cylinder) will be used in their calibration station. It’s a consumable product, if you will. Typically, those will last a couple of years in the calibration station, but it’s dependent upon how frequent they’re calibrating the air gas monitors.”

The MSA Altair 4X Multigas Detectors and MSA Calibration Gas Cylinder, Mills continued, go hand-in-hand. The calibration gas is used to ensure the air gas monitor functions correctly.

Kent Hartwig, who serves as senior manager of corporate affairs at REG’s Ames office, said the equipment will allow Newton’s firefighters to safely enter confined spaces and assess the air around them for traces of carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide, among other gases.

“That type of equipment is necessary to ensure the safety of people entering those spaces,” said Hartwig. “It’s equipment that can be used in an emergency situation and can be utilized in the regular chain of events, whether it’s a grain bin accident or a cistern issue — any opportunity where they would have to enter a confined space.”

According to Knoll, the NFD’s previous air monitoring equipment was reaching the end of its lifespan and could no longer be maintained or serviced. The department sought out REG, who was “more than happy to donate two” devices, he said.

Hypothetically, if the NFD answered a carbon monoxide alarm in a local residence, firefighters would walk into the house with their devices in-hand and search for any readings.

“In other scenarios, like if we were in a fire scene after we’ve gotten the fire knocked out and we’re doing overhaul work, we’ll take those in and see what the readings are,” Knoll said. “Then we see if we have safe levels so we can take our masks and air tanks off.”

Since the MSA Altair 4X Multigas Detector is small enough to keep latched onto a belt, it’s easier to handle and carry than its bulkier predecessor.

“When the new technology comes out, the other is obsolete.”

Contact Chris Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 6534 or at cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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