Firemen getting some new equipment

By CHARLES RUNNELLS, [email protected]
Published by on September 28, 2003

Pine Island firefighters will soon get more high-tech equipment to help them pinpoint fiery hotspots, sniff out hazardous materials and generally save lives.

Fire commissioners approved about $130,000 in new equipment Wednesday for the Matlacha-Pine Island Fire District. The equipment expenses were part of the fire department’s $2.27 million budget for 2003-2004.

“This isn’t just technology,” said fire Chief David Bradley at the meeting. “This is lifesaving equipment.”

In the coming months, Bradley plans to buy thermal imaging cameras, laptop computers, a hazardous-materials detector, laptop computers and a new “jaws of life” hydraulic tool for cutting victims from wrecked cars.

Some Pine Island residents questioned the need for the new items Wednesday and said the department should be looking to cut costs instead of buying more equipment.

“This is Pine Island,” said Dave Lukasek, 57, of Bokeelia. “There’s not a lot of hazardous stuff that happens out here.”

Board president Elsie Stearns disagreed.

“I don’t think any of us want to be under a school bus and be told that the jaws of life have to be coming from another station,” she said. “The fire department provides a service. This is important.”

The department already has two “jaws of life” hydraulic tools, but they’re both about 20 years old and need to be replaced, Bradley said.

“You know, we have a lot of accidents out here,” he said, “so the tools have saved a lot of lives.”

Bradley also plans to buy one or two thermal imaging cameras. The visor-mounted cameras spot body heat and can even pinpoint hidden flames inside walls.

The commission cut about $10,000 from the fire department’s budget Wednesday, and Bradley said he may have to limit himself to just one new camera. The heat-seeking cameras cost about $11,000 each, he said.

The cameras help firefighters see the source of fires or find victims inside a house.

They’re even used to find victims of car crashes. “We’ve had people ejected from the car,” Bradley said, “and we’ve spent several hours looking for them in the palmetto bushes.”

The hazardous material detector can be used to find propane leaks in grills or swimming pools, or even be used in incidents such as a recent nitroglycerine scare, Bradley said.

In that incident, the fire department lost precious minutes waiting for another department to