Fire departments receive grants for equipment

By Ed Brock

The Morrow Fire Department's thermal imaging camera once saved a life, albeit a dog's life, in a fire last year.

But now the ISI Eagle Vision 3 is out of date.

Volunteer firefighters for the city of Jonesboro need new "turnout gear" to keep them safe on the job. And the Riverdale Fire Department wants to educate its citizens on the importance of using and maintaining fire sprinkler systems.

Now all three of those departments are getting what they need thanks to the Fireman's Fund Heritage program.

Last week the Fireman's Fund, a nationwide program founded in San Francisco in 1863 to provide money for the widows and orphans of firefighters, brought over $500,000 in funding for the Atlanta area.

The Atlanta Fire Department received a $200,000 disbursement, said Firefighter's Fund spokesman Craig Nettles, and 16 other departments received a total of $305,000.

Each department outlined how they would use the grants in their proposals, Nettles said, but basically the money is to be used for equipment, firefighter training, fire prevention tools and community education.

With the $21,000 that it received the Morrow Fire Department plans to buy one or two new thermal imaging cameras, fire Capt. Michael Byrd said. They will replace the Vision 3 that the city bought in 1998.

"The technology has changed a lot since then," Byrd said.

Today's devices are smaller, lighter and provide greater resolution. Right now the city is researching for the best buy and it will be three to four weeks before they will pick the exact product they will buy, Byrd said.

In July 2003 Morrow fighters used the Vision 3 to rescue Pincher Princess, a miniature Doberman Pincher belonging to Connie and Carl Gould whose Skylark Drive home was almost completely gutted by a fire. It was the first time the device had been used to save a life.

The new devices will allow the firefighters to do the same thing for a human being, Byrd said.

"It'll cut our search time in half," Byrd said. "Instead of having to crawl and feel our way we can see through the smoke."

Riverdale has received $4,500, with which they will purchase a sprinkler demonstration trailer, Riverdale Fire Chief Billy Hayes said.

The trailer, which they will buy used from the Georgia Fire Sprinkler Association, includes a sprinkler system and a Plexiglas viewing window, Hayes said. Furniture or other items can be placed in the trailer and then a fire would be started to trigger the sprinkler system.

"It shows the benefit of a sprinkler, it shows the rapid containment and extinguishing of the fire," Hayes said.

Hayes said the department's commercial customers are the target audience for the trailer. He wants to dispel misconceptions some people have, such as the idea that when a fire starts all of the sprinklers go off, possibly ruining everything in a store.

"With a deluge system (primarily used in facilities with highly flammable substances) you do have all of them going off," Hayes said. "But for most cases they are only single head activated."

The trailer should also show the importance of maintaining a sprinkler system.

"When you hear of a building burning down and it's a sprinkler-equipped building that's because the sprinkler hasn't been inspected and maintained or the sprinkler system installed wasn't an appropriate design for that building," Hayes said.

And, finally, the trailer could inspire people building new houses to include a residential sprinkler system.

Hayes said they will pick up the trailer on Tuesday and the grant money will also pay for some renovations and the addition of more sprinkler heads to the trailer.

The Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department received $14,000 from the fund, Fire Chief Jimmy Wiggins said. It will be used to buy 12 sets of "turnout gear," which includes the fire resistant coats and pants worn by firefighters along with helmets and boots.

"We'll mostly be getting pants and coats," Wiggins said. "It's all thanks to the Firefighter's Fund. It's a great thing they're doing."