Hometown Heroes--Thunderbolt Firefighters

All firefighters deserve our sincere appreciation. But yesterday, Thunderbolt firefighters were working around the clock on three major incidents.

"It started with five hours at an ammonia leak," said Chief Carl Smith with Thunderbolt FD.

At the time, Chief Smith and his crew didn't know this was only the beginning of a very long day. They were called out to the Crystal Clear Ice Company on Whatley Avenue. The company was refilling its ammonia tanks when one of the pipes started leaking. Containing the leak was one challenge. Containing the people who tried to walk or drive around the barricades was another.

"We headed off a lot of people who were about to walk right through the ammonia leak," said firefighter Jim Smith.

While this was going on, firefighters were battling a large wildfire in west Chatham County, which would be their next stop.

Why would firefighters, who've already had a busy day by anybody's standards, turn around to go to a fire on the other side of the county? It's all about helping people.

"It felt good," said firefighter Andrew Bateman. "I know if we needed them, they'd come help us, too."

They spent four hours helping their fellow firefighters in west Chatham County only to return to another call ten hours after the first big one of the day back at the ice plant.

"When they said 'Ammonia leak,' I said, 'Here we go again!'" said Bateman.

Two tanks at the ice plant had some ammonia left inside. As the temperatures cooled, the ammonia expanded and escaped. Firefighters spent three hours airing out the building with fans.

"I was tired," Bateman told us. "I'm still tired. I was on my feet all day yesterday. My legs are killing me, but it was fun."

But that's just one of the reasons why they do it.

"I like to be there when there's a need and help somebody that can't help themselves," said Jim Smith. "It's all in a day's work."

"It was a long day and they did a yeoman's job yesterday," the chief said of his firefighters.

And that's why they're WTOC's Hometown Heroes.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com