Roanoke City's Fire department introduces cutting edge technology

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City Fire and EMS department is getting 159 air pack units to replace the current 15-year-old units.

This transition has been in the works for the past year and half. The new packs contain new technology for every firefighter including thermal imaging camera.

“The packs are more comfortable for them to wear and they are more streamlined so it reduces fatigue on the firefighters and that's a huge thing and including the thermal imaging cameras,” said Battalion Chief Matt Dewhirst.

The equipment will let firefighters stay inside burning structures up to 45 minutes, which is 15 minutes longer than they currently can. That means the odds of them finding people and saving them goes up.

The air packs costs a total of $1.4 million and is the single largest investment into any item for the department. Taxpayer money provided $400,000 of that and the rest from a federal grant.
Roanoke City is the last local department to implement the new units.
“Salem was the first to go on these new packs then Roanoke County, now us. It's all on the same platform. We all run and respond on fires every day and now we have the same technology,” Chief David Hoback said.

The department has one more challenge to face while it transitions.

“Change is going to be the biggest thing and the firefighters in this department have been use to wearing the same air packs for 15 years and they know how that pack works,”Dewhirst said. “So, it's going to take some time and training.”

During the next month, the firefighters will have daily training with the new packs and will be donating the current ones to other departments in need in our region.