A popular sandwich chain gave two local fire departments a much needed boost Wednesday -- and not the kind that involves cold cuts and bread.
Firehouse Subs presented Roanoke Fire-EMS and Salem Fire-EMS with a grant totaling more than $15,000 to purchase new thermal imaging cameras.
The devices use heat-seeking technology to create an image of the user's surroundings -- things that are warmer appear lighter on the screen and things that are cooler appear darker.
Fire officials say they're extremely effective in situations when a room is blacked out by smoke or firefighters have to navigate around a dark space, essentially acting as their eyes.
The cameras can help firefighters quickly locate people inside burning buildings and detect fires burning within walls. They've also been used during rescue missions to help find people missing in water or in the wilderness.
Both departments say many of the cameras they currently have are outdated and are at the end of their useful lives, which is why they applied for the grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
"One of the great things about a grant program like what Firehouse Subs does, is it provides us money to buy equipment that we need but otherwise would not be able to replace," said Roanoke Fire-EMS Deputy Chief Ralph Tartaglia. "We're very grateful."
The cameras can cost anywhere from $4,500 to more than $6,000. With the money, Roanoke Fire-EMS will purchase two new cameras and Salem Fire-EMS will purchase one.
Firehouse Subs was founded by two ex-firefighters and launched the foundation back in 2005 to help make sure local fire departments have the tools they need to save lives. To date, the foundation has provided more than $293,000 to fire departments in Virginia.
"Thanks for what [the firefighters] do for us," said Jay Wright, Franchise Owner of the Firehouse Subs in Salem. "It's important. We don't realize we need them until we need them. And then, they're the most important thing."