Fire Chief John Phillips accepts a grant from Tom Lott of AmWINS and Lynette Cardwell of the Fireman’s Fund. Commissioner Mickey Ellington and Town Manager Brian Welch display the new thermal imaging cameras purchased with the grant money. Photo by Derek Lacey

By Amanda Waters

Staff Writer

Last Wednesday the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department received grant money for thermal imaging cameras.  The insurance company AmWINS, represented by Tom Lott, a member of the fire department, presented the $12,461 check in conjunction with the Fireman’s Fund, represented by Lynette Cardwell.  Town representatives Brian Welch, Beth Hamrick, and Mickey Ellington were in attendance, along with fire department board members Bobby Reynolds, Albert Leath, Phil Angelo, and charter member Bobby Long.

The grant was used to purchase two Scott Safety Eagle Attack thermal imaging cameras.  The cameras are among the newest tools available for fire fighters, introduced June of last year.  They are lighter in weight and easier to use, compared to the cameras they are replacing.

“We are extremely excited about the development of this thermal imaging tool,” Tony Topf of Scott Safety said in an earlier statement.  “Efficiency, quality and convenience factors are what make the Eagle Attack imager unique.  We’ve designed this innovation around what the customers have said rather than around what we think first responders may need.”

Images shot by the germanium lens are displayed on a screen showing heat represented by colors.  Yellow indicates temperatures of 200 degrees or more, when water turns to steam.  Orange is for 500 degrees or more, when common building materials will combust.  Temperatures of 800 degrees are represented by red and indicate the point of flashover, when smoke fills an area and becomes hot enough to ignite.

In the last few decades, more building materials and household items are being made of synthetic materials.  When these items burn, they produce a darker, thicker smoke than natural materials.  Firefighters 50 years ago could expect flashover after 30 minutes of flames, but today flashover occurs in three or four minutes, becoming an extremely dangerous problem.

The cameras will allow firefighters to find bodies lost in a smoke, find unaccounted for firefighters, find the source of a fire in thick smoke, and find missing people at night.

“Thermal imagery for the fire service is something that is becoming more needed,” said Phillips.  “We’re thrilled to have these cameras.”

The two new cameras will assist the fire department as it serves 39 square miles and a population of about 28,000 people.  The 18 full-time firefighters and 70 volunteers have begun training how to use these life-saving tools.