Local company donates thermal camera to BLFD

Fire Chief Josh Frye demonstrates the new thermal imagery camera acquired with a donation from poultry producer House of Raeford. (Staff photo by Tony Baughman)

Thanks to the generosity of one area company, the Batesburg-Leesville Fire Department has a powerful new tool in the fight to save lives.

Last week, poultry producer House of Raeford donated a high-tech thermal imaging camera, valued at more than $8,000, to the department. Company officials gathered with firefighters and Town leadership for a presentation ceremony in front of the firehouse in Batesburg, finalizing the gift from House of Raeford’s Faithful Love Offering for Christ’s Kingdom (FLOCK) non-profit foundation.

“This is going to be a huge asset to the department; it upgrades our 10 to 12-year-old technology we have here,” said Fire Chief Josh Frye, clutching the new camera. “The images are a lot clearer, and it has a lot more features that make things safer for us. It increases our abilities of being able to find victims, save property a lot quicker and easier.”

The recommendation for the donation came from volunteer firefighter Chris Swygert, who works as pullet manager at House of Raeford. Seeing the need in the fire department where he spends his off-work time, Mr. Swygert asked his employer to consider helping with half the cost of the heat-seeking camera. House of Raeford decided to cover 100 percent of the $8,300 price tag.

“Bob Johnson, who is the owner of House of Raeford, that’s part of his mission – to be sure that he can give back to the communities that we’re involved in. We want to help people out,” said Mr. Swygert, a 28-year veteran volunteer for the fire department.

The FLOCK program began in 2008 when Mr. Johnson “concluded that the company’s calling should be to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” according to a company biography. In addition to making monetary donations like the cost of the new thermal imaging camera in Batesburg-Leesville, the company donates thousands of pounds of fresh poultry to food banks, feeding programs and other charities, and House of Raeford employees donate thousands of hours of community service.

“It’s unbelievable to work for a company that does such a good job of helping the people around them, that wants to put back into the community,” Mr. Swygert said.

Such a generous donation shows the character of House of Raeford and its employees, according to Batesburg-Leesville Lancer Shull.

“You’re putting this important new technology in the hands of some of the best, most capable firefighters we have in South Carolina,” the mayor said. “The part that really strikes me is that this comes from the community. This shows what an incredible community we have here. Building those relationships with our business community, having those relationships in place, is exactly what the Town needs. You can’t keep this stuff going on the backs of the taxpayers. So, it’s a fantastic thing when you have a company like House of Raeford willing to help.”

To illustrate the life-saving power of the new camera, the fire department set up a mock entry demonstration at the fire station, filling a room with simulated smoke and stationing a couple of firefighters inside the vapor-filled room. Chief Frye, camera in hand, entered the room and was able to navigate into the darkness and move easily through the dense wall of smoke to locate the firefighters sitting inside.

“The imagery is amazing, and it’s got other features that will help us. It’s got kind of a compass in it, so if we’re in a house operating and we can’t see where we’re at, it actually tells you whether you’re pointing toward the north, toward the south, toward the east,” Chief Frye said. “It’s got a range-finder on it. So if we go into a larger building, a larger room and depth perception is an issue, we can shoot to the other side of the room with a laser range-finder, and it’ll let you know how big of a room you’re looking at.”

For more information on the House of Raeford’s FLOCK community outreach, visit the company website at www.houseofraeford.com/responsibility.

House of Raeford personnel and Batesburg-Leesville Town officials gather at the Batesburg firehouse for the presentation of the new thermal imaging camera.