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CURRENT STORIES


Sisters' ingenuity helps provide equipment for Grafton firefig

by Matt Harvey

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR

In 1997, sisters Joyce Horovitz and Martha Bobela approached the Grafton Volunteer Fire Department with a novel idea: Raising funds with a craft show.

Chief Wayne Beall admits now the reception was less than enthusiastic.

"I ain't going to lie about it," Beall said. "A bunch of the guys didn't think craft shows were that big a deal, but they proved us wrong. Craft shows are money-makers."

And how.

Three years later, the idea that was greeted in skepticism has helped raise funds for two defibrillators, other new equipment and, now, a thermal imaging camera.

The camera, which costs $17,000, will be unveiled at 10 a.m. today at the Grafton City Building. Firefighters will serve coffee and donuts, plus demonstrate how the camera works.

Chief Beall, understandably, has become a big fan of craft shows. And of Horovitz, 52, and Bobela, 56.

"They're great," Beall said of the sisters.

He's also grateful for all the help from the public.

"It's good for morale," Beall said, "because the public got behind us and got this. It's something we would have never put in our budget to buy, due to the cost of it. And it will help make our job a little bit easier and more efficient."

The sisters started the project after reading a letter to the editor in 1997 in which the fire department asked for community support.

Horovitz and Bobela approached the firefighters and a goal of raising money for a single defibrillator was set.

More than $2,000 was raised from that first craft show, the women said, enough for a second defibrillator, as well.

The second year, a car show was held in conjunction with the craft show, and even more money was raised, Horovitz said.

And last year, in addition to the car show and craft show, Wal-Mart donated about $11,000, Horovitz said.

Enter the thermal imaging camera, which is used to detect body heat.

"Without one, when it's real smoky, you have to crawl around, feel around for things," Beall said. "This camera will detect body heat. If someone's in there, you can see it. It's a lot better than feeling around in the dark for someone.

"A lot of times when you pull up to a house fire, someone tells you there's possibly someone still in house. With a camera you can go around and check a lot quicker," Beall said.

After the fire has been controlled, firefighters must check the rubble for hot spots -- small pockets of heat that can erupt into flame. The thermal imaging camera helps there, too.

"Our guys are pretty good, but this will definitely make it a lot quicker," Beall said.

The sisters, who make plastic canvas crafts, already have the next show planned.

This year, instead of the Grafton Volunteer Fire Department Craft and Car Show, the event will be called the Grafton Firemen's Festival.

In addition to probably having more than 50 crafters, the event also will have a parade, Horovitz said.

It will be held Oct. 13-14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Grafton, Horovitz said.