For Marion County and Draneville Fire Chief Travis Welch, Thursday was a lucky day.
With the help of Fort Benning, the Columbus Fire Department and Georgia Forestry, Draneville’s small volunteer fire department can now claim a Class A fire truck and $26,000 worth of thermal imaging equipment as its own.
“It was a real lucky day for us,” Welch said. “That’s the biggest challenge for us, is keeping the equipment up to date and getting more equipment. We can’t just go out and buy it.”
Welch was able to secure the thermal imaging equipment with the help of Georgia Forestry’s Justin Brown, who was unavailable Friday. Brown helped Draneville acquire the equipment through the Columbus Logistics Dispense Agency, which allows law enforcement agencies and government departments to gain excess goods for free from Fort Benning surplus.
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“He got up to make sure he was the first one to get it,” Welch said. “You just gotta be lucky. When you find something online you gotta be the first one to tag it.”
For a $100 administrative fee, the department received equipment that can help fire fighters locate people inside burning buildings more easily by registering differences in heat by color. Mostly, the department will use the equipment for house fires, but the potential uses are numerous.
“You can use them for a lot of different things,” Welch said. “If you have a child lost in the woods or something, you can find them in the woods. And in a house fire, once you get the fire put out and if you got a hot spot left in the walls or anything, you could take that camera and get that hot spot put out.”
Draneville’s luck didn’t end with the thermal imaging equipment. Welch said after two to three years of trying, the department was able to claim a donated fire truck from the Columbus Fire Department. The 1995 model will be now be one of two trucks operated by Draneville.
“The only truck I had was a 1975 model,” Welch said. “We wrote [Columbus Fire Department] a letter, requesting that if they had another surplus truck come up we requested that we had first choice at it. And Capt. Waits told me yesterday that they had a lot of people put in for it, and he had a hard time deciding who to give it to.”
The Ledger-Enquirer was unable to reach a representative of the Columbus Fire Department for comment Thursday.
The newly acquired equipment comes as a major help to Draneville’s Fire Department, who are paid $25 for forest and gas fires and $100 for structure fires by the city government, Welch said. Most funds and equipment for the department come from donations. In return for those donations, Draneville provides its citizens with the only first responders in the county, EMS services and a rescue truck.
Welch said he “doesn’t want to push his luck” by trying for new equipment, but says the new equipment is a testimony to the Georgia Forestry’s efficacy in the area.
“A lot of people think they’re not doing anything, but this equipment will prove to the people in the county that they are doing something,” Welch said. “This will really help us a lot.”