CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - New technology is transforming the way one local fire department is able to perform rescue and recovery missions in the water.
The Sherills Ford-Terrell Fire Department got a new and improved tow fish to work alongside their ROV, or Remote Operating Vehicle, robot.
The new tow fish is an update to their old equipment.
It attaches to rope and swims next to the boat.
“Putting out sonar beams at an angle and we can cover up to about 150 feet of coverage,” Fire Chief Rick Davis said.
It takes pictures of the bottom of the lake and marks an object’s location, like this boat trailer.
“It’s saying turn right, turn left, and it’s also telling us how far from the target we are," Batallion Chief Houston Garris said.
Next, they follow up with the ROV, which replaces the job of a diver.
“We don’t want to put anyone in the water unless we absolutely have to,” Chief Davis said.
They acquired the ROV in 2017 after the death of Captain Bradley Long, who ran out of air during a diving mission in 2016.
“This was a way that we could continue to provide services to our community in a safer way,” Chief Davis said.
The ROV heads to an object’s location marked by GPS and recovers it by grabbing it with a manipulator.
The missions are sensitive.
“There needs to be some dignity and some respect so we take that into account,” Chief Davis said.
Captain Long stays with them in spirit.
"He would've been one of the first ones who would have wanted to qualify as a pilot because that's just who he was."
A total of 15 firefighters are trained to operate the technology.
They head out with the hopes of saving a life, knowing they have a guardian angel above them.
"We're going to continue to move forward and hold him up and continue to serve the citizens of Sherrills Ford-Terrell."
Chief Davis says their department is the only one in their immediate area with access to a tow fish and ROV, which means they’re requested to assist in operations in other counties and even other states.