JEFFERSONVILLE, NY — The Jeffersonville Volunteer Fire Department recently received a 50/50 matching grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to purchase a new …
JEFFERSONVILLE, NY — The Jeffersonville Volunteer Fire Department recently received a 50/50 matching grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to purchase a new thermal-imaging camera to assist them in locating hotspots while battling wildland fires.
The unit costs approximately $3,000, and is the second thermal-imaging system in operation at the local fire company.
According to Chief Scott “Wally” McGowan, thermal-imaging cameras are also used during structure fires to locate hotspots in walls and pinpoint the location of surviving victims or bodies of the deceased.
“They show you hotspots, can see inside walls, tell how hot the fire is, and we can also use them to find people. They outline the dynamics of what we’re looking for,” he said, adding that when deployed during wildland blazes, the units “can look through stones walls” or determine if fire lingers under burned debris, “so we don’t have to go back if it rekindles.”
In addition to the thermal-imaging camera obtained through the DEC grant, the district’s fire commissioners recently provided 14 new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) manufactured by 3M Scott, and in September of 2019, a new Sutphen engine pumper to replace an aging 1988 Duplex.
McGowan said the new Scott-Paks were purchased at a cost of approximately $104,000, and are currently going online to take the place of several older models, some of which will be transferred to the neighboring Hortonville Fire Department, which reportedly still uses some SCBA’s dating back 15 years.
Asked about the importance of upgrading the Scott-Paks, McGowan said the primary concern was firefighter safety, noting that older units were rated at 2216 pounds per square inch (psi) capacity, while the new versions were rated at 4500 psi and were noticeably smaller with more air.
Before winter set in, the department conducted a training session with the new air-packs in a smoke-filled abandoned house that was ‘volunteered’ as a training site by a local resident.
The 2019 Sutphen apparatus, equipped with a 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump, and a 1000-gallon tank, was purchased at a cost of $597,000.
It has already seen duty at a small blaze at the Villa Roma Resort outside Callicoon, NY and, in April 2020, was deployed during the fire at Samba Café, located on Jeffersonville’s Main Street.
“The commissioners are great at upgrading equipment, keeping us up to par by replacing apparatus, making everything more efficient than it was 30 years ago... Volunteer fire departments keep the taxes a lot lower,” said McGowan.
McGowan joined the local fire department in 1993, a couple of years before he graduated from Jeffersonville High School in 1995. This year marks his second rotation through the ranks up to chief of the department.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” McGowan replied when asked what motivated him to join the local department, which boasts a total roster of nearly 80 firefighters.
As a 16-year-old, he was the first junior firefighter in the program, and in 2021, the department is working on establishing a cadet training program for ages 14 to 15, as volunteer fire companies try to bring new recruits into the ranks of service to their communities.
“We have 31 active members,” said McGowan, noting that a few months ago, they added three new recruits.
“We want to bring new blood into the local departments; we have a lot of brothers, fathers and sons,” added the dedicated firefighter.
Wondering about the perks of becoming an emergency service volunteer? Here’s what’s there for you!
A second family
When working in life-or-death situations, those who serve alongside you can become more than colleagues, they become family. In addition to your work as a volunteer firefighter that bonds you together, you will also likely go through personal and professional changes that you share with your fellow volunteers.
Free training & professional development
Individuals who have never taken a safety class before can get all the training they need by becoming a volunteer firefighter. Often the department will pay for EMT, CPR, and basic life-saving training. Some also set aside funding for attending local and regional firefighter conferences.
Satisfaction that you are helping and serving the community
Providing emergency service is one of the most rewarding activities you can participate in. Here in Sullivan County, our emergency service volunteers are providing an essential service. Volunteers feel useful and greatly appreciated.