GREAT BARRINGTON — Perhaps 20 times a year — during fires, carbon monoxide calls and hazardous materials exposures — the town's fire department uses its air packs, according to Fire Chief Charles Burger.

"Air packs are one of the most critical pieces of equipment needed to enable our firefighters to safely operate in hazardous conditions," said Burger.

On Tuesday, the town was notified that the fire department had received $160,477 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to buy 28 of the air pack units, or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

The new SCBA cylinders hold about 50 percent more air than the current units, which, according to Burger, increases the amount of "working time" for a firefighter.

In addition, he said, the face plates on the air packs better transmit sound, which will greatly improve communication between the firefighters. The face plates are also specially constructed to minimize fogging up.

The packs are also more reliable and simpler to maintain than the ones presently in operation, said Burger.

The department expects to be using the new packs this fall, said Burger.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.