The lifesaving capabilities of the Clayton Fire Department are getting a huge boost from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
Thanks to the support of the local Firehouse Subs restaurant and donations from its patrons, the department has been awarded a grant for an inflatable, motorized rescue boat, along with a trailer. The grant, valued at $25,758.25, will also include 8 rescue swimmer kits to help outfit firefighters with helmets, wetsuits, gloves, boots and roping.
“This is simply outstanding and well-deserved,” said Paul Meador, owner of the Firehouse Subs restaurant just off Shotwell Road and US 70 Business in Clayton. “Chief Barbee and his department have been a big part of our success at Firehouse Subs #1237 and General Manager James Taylor has been an incredible advocate, encouraging our restaurant patrons to donate to our Public Safety Foundation. As the owner, it has been my privilege to work with Chief Barbee for the past 3 years and see the staff at Clayton grow under James’ leadership. I could not be more happy for the Clayton Fire Department and for Firehouse Subs in Clayton.”
Clayton has recently responded to several water incidents and emergencies where rescue equipment like this would have been key, including a search for a missing kayaker on the Neuse River in the dark of night and the discovery of a submerged minivan just off the NC 42 bridge. The river is one of Clayton’s most vital natural resources, with activity along the river increasing in recent years with the completion of the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse greenway, a 4 mile stretch of the Mountains to Sea Trial and East Coast Greenway system which runs along the water. The Neuse is also prone to flooding, with near record levels reached in recent storms.
Currently, the Clayton Fire Department only possesses an inflatable paddle boat. In recent emergencies, Clayton crews have had to wait up to 45 minutes for another department to arrive with a motorized boat that can compete with the swift-moving waters of the Neuse River. The department had made budget requests for similar water rescue equipment, but those requests had to be cut from the Town of Clayton budget in recent tight fiscal years to address other critical town needs.
“One of the best things about the boat from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation is it can be launched from anywhere – you don’t need a ramp, you can get close and then carry it to the water, which is what we need,” said Deputy Fire Chief of Operations Jason Dean, who had submitted the grant application two years running. “It can go just about anywhere in any condition. And the rescue swimmer equipment will protect our firefighters from injury or hypothermia during any kind of weather. I can’t thank Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and their donors enough.”
Water rescues may not be as frequent as other calls, but when firefighter deaths in fires are compared to the number of firefighter deaths on water rescues, a firefighter has a 400 percent higher chance of dying due to the dynamics of hazards related to water. Rescuers can often become victims themselves, but with increased response times and properly-equipped firefighters and boats – rescues don’t have to turn into recoveries.
The Clayton Fire Department hopes to begin ordering the equipment soon and to have in place for planned swift water rescue training this July.
In 2005, the Firehouse Subs founders established the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation with the mission of providing funding, life-saving equipment, and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations. Through the non-profit 501(c)(3), Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has granted more than $33 million to hometown heroes in 46 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, including more than $1.1 million in North Carolina.