Windsor firemen break new ground

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

WINDSOR – It’s not often that a poor rural county finds itself the forerunner for using the cutting edge of technology.

But Bertie County is in just that position as of last week when the Windsor Fire Department implemented the use of brand-new, state-of-the-art breathing apparatuses.

According to Fire Chief Billy Smithwick, the department is the first in the state to put these new devices to use.

What makes these particular air packs so special is that they have the unique ability to pinpoint a firefighter’s location in addition to helping him breathe.

&uot;These things have the capability to track a firefighter if he goes down, if the ceiling falls down or he has difficulty escaping,&uot; Smithwick explained.

He went on, &uot;An alarm automatically goes off if (the firefighter) is still for several seconds, alerts another device and identifies which firefighter is down and what direction he’s in.&uot;

This new technology saves rescuers from doing mass searches in which precious minutes are critical when lives are on the line.

The Windsor Town Council approved partial funding for the units earlier this year. They paid $4,300 for their share; the rest of the $94,000 total cost was provided by a FEMA matching grant.

There are 18 units total and all four of the WFD’s trucks will be equipped with the new air packs.

&uot;We are just tickled to death because of the improved safety factor we can now provide for our people,&uot; Smithwick exulted.

The air packs the department previously used were 18 years old and are still in good working condition, but without the locating capacity the new ones have. They will be donated to other fire departments in the county, according to Smithwick.