The Criner Hills Volunteer Fire Department will be receiving a new set of personal protective equipment soon with the addition of around five new firefighters.

Criner Hills Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charles Campbell said the equipment, including coats, hats, boots, gloves, hoods and more, is vital in order for the new recruits to begin volunteering.

“I’ve got these young guys, one of them is still in high school and he’ll graduate this year,” Campbell said. “I’ve got one that graduated last year and they’re willing to come out and volunteer so I’ve got to get them some bunker gear and the gear they need to be out there on the fire lines.”

Personal protective equipment is another name for the bunker gear firefighters wear when they go into a burning house or structure, Campbell said. The gear protects them from illnesses and hazards caused by contact with hazardous chemicals and extreme heat.

“This stuff goes up to quite a bit of heat and it protects you from the heat and also the flames and everything,” Campbell said.

Purchased through Carter County tax dollars, the equipment typically runs around $3,000 per suit — an expense that can be hard for volunteer organizations to keep up with.

Aside from the Ardmore Fire Department and three paid firefighters at the Lone Grove department, the rest of Carter County relies on volunteer firefighters, Campbell said. And with declining numbers in volunteers over the past 10 to 15 years, the addition of new volunteers is essential.

“I’ve got four or five guys that didn’t have any and we had to get them some stuff,” Campbell said.

The new volunteers were measured for the new equipment a few days ago and the Criner Hills department expects to receive the gear soon, Campbell said. Once the equipment is received it should last about 10 years before a new set has to be purchased, he said.

Campbell said he would also like to remind individuals to “be careful out there” as the fire danger is very high at the moment due to large amounts of dead, dry vegetation that can easily go up in rapidly spreading flames.