Southern California Area Fire Departments May Lose Federal Grants for SCBAs

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A California Superior Court judge has set aside a contract for 4,200 self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units and related equipment, potentially endangering $9.5 million in federal grants for needed firefighting equipment in southern California.

Ruling on a petition filed by Allstar Fire Equipment, a distributor for Scott Health and Safety Equipment, and by Mine Safety Appliances (MSA), the court set a hearing date to discuss the terms of the judgment for November 17, just days before a November 28 deadline requiring area fire departments to take delivery of the SCBAs or risk losing their grant funding. Smaller departments with older equipment that rely heavily on federal funding will be particularly hard hit.

The suit was filed against Los Angeles County, the city of Los Angeles, and L.N. Curtis & Sons, a distributor for Sperian Fire SCBAs. Both Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles are members of SCAPPEC, the Southern California Area Personal Protective Equipment Consortium, a consortium formed by 32 area fire departments to jointly purchase state-of-the-art, interchangeable equipment.

A number of manufacturers and distributors competed for the SCAPPEC award, which is believed to be the largest municipal fire service SCBA bid in US history. Allstar and SCBA manufacturer MSA lost the SCAPPEC contract competition in July to competing distributor L.N. Curtis & Sons, whose Sperian Warrior® SCBA and other related SCBA items were judged by the evaluation committee to be superior to the Scott and MSA equipment.

“Over 7,000 of some 9,000 SCAPPEC firefighters use Sperian SCBAs every day with an outstanding safety and performance record,” said Bill Sokol, a Sperian vice president. “In fact, Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles have used our SCBAs for more than three decades. This suit is about SCAPPEC’s bid process, not about the product or our distributor.”

“In raising technicalities about the bid process,” he added, “Allstar and MSA have put profits ahead of protection, and the result may well be that some firefighters won’t get the critical lifesaving equipment they want and need.”

Sperian is not a party to the suit, which was filed against Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, and Sperian distributor L.N. Curtis & Sons. These parties are considering an appeal of the court decision.

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