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John Andersen: Tavern League donation lifts county fire departments

John Andersen: Tavern League donation lifts county fire departments

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The Chippewa County Fire Chief’s Association is a non-profit, non-stock association that meets four times a year to review current trends in firefighting and to share information with and about the county fire departments. With the addition of the new Wheaton Fire Rescue Department there are now 12 fire departments in Chippewa County.

A major concern over the last year has been the use and storage of AFFF (A triple F) firefighting foam. About 20 years ago the Chippewa County Fire Chief’s Association received a gift of 1,000 gallons of AFFF from the “Tank Farms” in the Village of Lake Hallie. That gift was well received because AFFF is the only true way to put out a flammable liquid fire. Water does not work. Remember you are never to try and use water on a kitchen grease fire. The grease just floats on top of the water and the fire continues to grow the same idea applies to flammable liquids.

Working with Chippewa County Emergency Government and the Local Emergency Planning Committee, a trailer was purchased to take the foam all around the county should the need arise. All the fire departments in the county pitched in to make sure that the foam trailer was stored in a warm place, and each county fire department pitched in on the maintenance. All that was done through the Chippewa County Fire Chief’s Association. When it came to flammable liquid fires the County Chief’s were in the Catbirds Seat.

On June 26, 2020, the County Fire Chief’s Association lost the Catbirds seat. Get ready and see if you can follow me. AFFF contains PFAS which according to the Wisconsin DNR are: “are a large group of human-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. PFAS have been used specifically in some synthetic Class B firefighting foams, including aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF)”. In short AFFF with PFAS causes cancer.

Reacting to that the Wisconsin State Legislature passed 2019 ACT 101 which became effective September 1, 2020. This new law prohibits the use of Class B and Class A/B firefighting foams that contain intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), except in two situations using it on a fire and using it for testing. Plus any fire department that uses it had to report its use immediately to the DNR. In short fire departments using AFFF could contaminate ground water and cause cancer in its members. Not a good deal.

The Chippewa County Fire Chiefs were responsible for enough AFFF foam to be a serious health threat to its firefighters and a now well documented threat to surface and ground water in the State of Wisconsin. Funding for the Chippewa Fire Chiefs Association has always been very tight. The dues are $100 a year. While discussing this quandary enter the Chippewa County Tavern League.

On the evening of January 16 at the Maple Hill Bar, the Chippewa County Tavern League presented the Chippewa County Fire Chief’s with a very generous donation. With that donation and money already set aside by the County Fire Chief’s Association, the 1,000 gallons of AFFF will be soon disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

While it may not seem sexy to put money towards disposal of a chemical, the Chippewa County Tavern League has lightened the burden of all 12 fire departments in Chippewa County.


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