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Multi-gas meters help firefighters detect natural gas

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MILWAUKEE -- Firefighters put their lives on the line and respond to all kinds of emergency situations every day, but sometimes, they can't see the danger. Now, they have a new tool in their arsenal that will help them detect natural gas leaks that have the potential to become deadly.

Firefighters say natural gas leaks are a common problem they respond to, prompting the Milwaukee Fire Department to purchase new gas detecting equipment, called multi-gas meters. "It's a small hand-held device that we'll actually carry with us right into the environment, and it will let us know almost instantly if we are in an environment that is hazardous and that's critical," Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion Chief Aaron Lipski said.

The department was able to purchase the potentially life-saving devices thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Wisconsin Energy Foundation. "We thought it was significant to equip them with what they need to assure safety both for our employees and the customers that we serve everyday," Thelma Sias with We Energies said.

Fire officials say the equipment they used prior to receiving the multi-gas meters could not detect as many gases, and were well over a decade old. "Operationally, we'll have to spend far less replacing and repairing parts. We were repairing the old ones at a staggering rate and that's quite expensive," Lipski said.

Firefighters hope this new tool will help keep firefighters and citizens out of harm's way. The Milwaukee Fire Department received 12 of the multi-gas meters in April.