Firefighters#039; bright idea pushes safety

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

UPPER TOWNSHIP - A few weeks ago, some local firefighters narrowly avoided tragedy.

The fire department of Upper Township has now launched a campaign to purchase a device that will help them, and all Lawrence County firefighters, avoid a similar situation.

During an investigation after a house fire in Decatur, the fire chief discovered an in-ground well, and just six inches away: The imprint of a fireman's boot. Due to the lack of lighting, and unfamiliarity with the terrain, some unlucky fireman had come within half-of-a-foot of disaster.

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"You take a firefighter, even if you didn't have your air tank on, he's heavy enough that if he'd gone in that well, 30 or 40 feet, he'd have drowned," Upper Township volunteer firefighter Gene Cox said. "It's possible a guy could have fallen in it, and no one would have ever seen him."

After this and similar situations where darkness was a major liability, the firefighters of Upper Township decided to take action. Their solution? The Night Fighter Lighting System.

The system consists of for or six 1,000-watt lighting fixtures which can be elevated on a pole up to 30 feet. It's also capable of 360 degrees of rotation, so massive amounts of light can be thrown anywhere emergency responders need it.

Also included is a generator capable of powering the light, and any assorted tools that the department might have need in an emergency situation.

If they're able to acquire it, the lighting system would be the first of its kind in the county, and would be available to emergency responders throughout the area, should the need arise.

"Truthfully, they all need it, even the city fire departments, even with the street lighting," Cox said. "This would actually light a scene up like a football field, and make it much safer for everybody concerned."

Cox offers the example of a recent rescue by the Elizabeth Township fire department during which they had to transport five teenagers out of the Lake Vesuvius area with only 4-wheelers and rescue carts. The going was slow and dangerous because of the lack of lighting, a problem that could have been corrected by this new system.

As the lights will help the whole county, the Upper Township fire department is hopeful that the county will pitch in with the price tag, an imposing sum of almost $20,000.

Though the going has been somewhat slow, one company has already contributed a grand to the firefighters' cause, and future fund-raising events are currently in the works. Those interested in furthering the effort can contact the department at (740) 532-4800.

Ideally, Cox would like to have the system in time to display it during the Ironton Memorial Day Parade. If all goes according to plan, by the end of the month, many Lawrence County residents may start seeing the light.