Women set up fund for firefighters' helmets

November 02, 1997


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - A volunteer firefighter, dressed in full uniform and air mask, gave a demonstration to a group of children at an open house recently.

Kathy Snyder, of Crystal Falls Drive, said her 2-year-old son recoiled in terror at the strange-looking man.

"It looks like a man from outer space," conceded Oley Griffith, chief of the First Hose Co. of Boonsboro.

Snyder said her son's fear sparked a question: If he was terrified of a firefighter during a demonstration, how would he react in an actual fire? A firefighter might not be able to find her son if he hid in a corner, she reasoned.

Snyder said she thought of another demonstration she saw recently. A video demonstrated a special helmet with infrared sensors that allows firefighters to detect people through blinding smoke and darkness.


"I thought: My children would hide under a bed. If the fireman had one of these hats, he could see them under a bed," she said.

When Snyder asked Boonsboro firefighters about the special helmets last month, she said she found that no fire department in Washington County has the equipment. The hefty price tag - more than $25,000 - had shoved the helmet down on their priority lists.

"We couldn't justify the cost at the time. It's nice to have, but we had other equipment we needed first," Griffith said.

Snyder said firefighters asked if she wanted to buy them one. She and her sister-in-law said yes.

"They're risking their lives to bring out victims and minimize damage. Why shouldn't they have the best equipment?" she asked.

Snyder said she has taken the first steps in a fund-raising drive she hopes will raise the necessary cash in a year. She and her sister-in-law spent $100 of their own money to set up a fund-raising account at the American Trust bank branch in Boonsboro and have begun making other plans.

Snyder said she has about a half-dozen commitments from Boonsboro businesses to donate gift certificates for a raffle she hopes to sponsor later this year. She said she also is planning a fund-raising dance in December.

Griffith said he intends to invite companies to demonstrate their products at the fire station on Nov. 20. Two kinds of equipment are available - a hand-held thermal imaging camera and thermal-sensing device mounted on a helmet.

While the hand-held device is less expensive, the helmet frees firefighters' hands. Either would help the department and either would be available to surrounding areas as well, Griffith said.

Griffith said cost, not desire, has prevented Boonsboro and other companies from buying the devices.

"If every department could afford one, every department would like to have one," he said.

To Snyder, the prospect of saving lives supercedes the price tag.

"If it's my child in a fire, I want them to be able to find my child," she said.

Snyder said donations can be made to the Infrared Helmet Fund at the American Trust in Boonsboro on Old National Pike. The account number is 3780352419.

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