Round Rock firefighters begin training on safer, more efficient equipment

Williamson County

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The City of Round Rock has a new tool for fighting high-rise building fires, and it was recently installed at Round Rock’s training facility.

The equipment is called a Firefighting Air Replenishment Systems (FARS). The system is a standpipe that allows firefighters faster and safer access to breathing air that they can use to fill their air bottles.

Thursday, Round Rock firefighters demonstrated the equipment at its training facility by trekking up a five-story building to put out a fire inside a room.

“We’re going to burn through our air bottles rapidly,” said Captain Mike Gagliano with the Firefighter Air Coalition. “Those air bottles have to be replenished somehow. We have to go down the stairs, find it and the whole time the fire is still burning.”

By using the FARS system, firefighters can avoid trekking down five flights of stairs to fill up their air tanks. Instead, the compression systems are found on various floors through a high-rise building.

  • The Round Rock Fire Department debuted new fire equipment. (Courtesy: City of Round Rock)
  • The Round Rock Fire Department debuted new fire equipment. (Courtesy: City of Round Rock)
  • The Round Rock Fire Department debuted new fire equipment. (Courtesy: City of Round Rock)
  • The Round Rock Fire Department debuted new fire equipment. (Courtesy: City of Round Rock)

“It takes a lot of people to carry up enough air to continue operations,” said Round Rock Fire Chief Robert Isbell. “This is part of the new requirement in one of the fastest-growing cities. We have a lot of high-rise buildings and we were able to get it installed in the new Kalahari development.”

The technology was added to the fire code in 2015, but Round Rock’s fire chief says you won’t find them in all buildings just yet.

“Although it’s a requirement, not all cities have adopted the code in its entirety,” said Chief Isbell.

An individual developer has to pay for the FARS system much like installing sprinkler systems. The average cost, according to Gagliano, can be around $200,000 which depends on a building’s size and the region it’s being built in.

The systems are being installed in buildings five stories and up. The City of Round Rock plans to make this the standard for all new development in its code soon.

“It’s a huge step forward in firefighting safety as far as development in the code,” said Chief Isbell. “We’re very excited for it to come to our town.”

The City of Plano’s new fire training center was one of the centers in Texas to install this system for firefighters to train on. Since 2016, about 25-high rise buildings in Plano have been built with a FARS system inside.

So far, Kalahari in Round Rock is the only building to have a FARS system installed.

The system was given to the Round Rock firefighters for the training facility at no cost by the Firefighter Air Coalition, an advocacy group that promotes firefighter safety.

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