Unified Firefighters Buy Dozens Of Thermal Imaging Cameras

Dec 14, 2018, 5:07 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2018, 2:00 pm

MAGNA, Utah – New equipment could be a game-changer for Unified Firefighters. The UFA just bought dozens of thermal imaging cameras that will change the way they search burning buildings, find the origins of fires and save lives. They are even starting to discover more uses for the cameras as they train to use them.

“It’s going to speed up our searches for victims, searches for fires, and searches for hidden fires,” said Captain Sam Christensen, with the Unified Fire Authority. “All of those things, we’re going to be able to see now that we have this technology.”

When firefighters enter a burning house or building, typically they see nothing, it’s pitch black. It’s not like Hollywood, where the inside of the burning building is lit up so you can see the action.

Christensen took KSL TV into a Unified Fire training facility with a fake fire going on to show how the new cameras work. We went through several rooms hunting for hand-warmers, the kind of hot pads you can take on skiing trips.  The hot little pads lit up on the digital camera screens, making them easy to find.

“You can’t see the top of the stairs with your naked eye,” said Cpt. Christensen, as we walked through the training facility.

That’s why, for years, firefighters got down on their hands and knees to search pitch black rooms for victims.

“We’ve been feeling our way through dark hallways and smoky environment with no vision aside from our flashlights.”

Through the camera, we can see the steps and find our way as we keep searching for heat sources, like bodies.

“This is as clear as any image gets,” said Christensen. “It’s a digital readout of what you’re seeing.”

With the cameras, firefighters can see furniture, and find their way through a dark room. Without them, what do they see?

“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” said Christensen.

The thermal imaging cameras translate infrared energy into an image firefighters can see on the digital screen, high quality images in total blackout conditions.

“It’s an absolute game-changer,” he said.

They can also eliminate the hazard, by finding the fire quickly.

“We can make entry in the front door, scan the ceiling and see the direction of the heat currents and go the opposite direction to find the fire. So, it’s huge.”

Other uses are emerging, too.  When they arrive at a car crash, and are uncertain about the number of passengers, they can find out if someone has been ejected.

“We can scan and the surrounding area, and they’ll show up like a bright light,” said Christensen. “The potential is endless.”

The Unified Fire Department just bought 72 of the cameras, for nearly $500,000. They now have enough of the cameras to put two on each fire apparatus.

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Unified Firefighters Buy Dozens Of Thermal Imaging Cameras