Thermal imaging cameras will help in no visibility situations

Pueblo Fire Departments crews will soon be getting new technology to help them navigate through situations where fires create limited or no visibility at all.

The city has set aside $30,000 from a public safety grant match fund to purchase thermal imaging cameras that will attach to firefighters' self-contained breathing apparatuses.

Every firefighting team at the department will be getting a camera, according to Rick Potter, the acting fire chief.

The firefighter who is wearing the camera can lift it up and look around for hot spots and other trouble areas in a structure when a fire is producing so much smoke that visibility is severely hampered.

"When you're in a zero visibility condition, you will be able to bring that up to your mask and it will see through the smoke and create heat signatures," Potter said. "In a very simplistic way, it's like a night vision camera where at night you can't see, but you bring that night vision camera up and you can all of a sudden.

"There are some limitations, like depth perception, but it does allow you to find hidden hot spots and other things like that."

Potter said the department will be using the technology primarily for self-rescue situations in which firefighters need to get out of a structure because of the danger presented by lack of visibility.

"These cameras are for dire situations where the conditions are such that we've got to get out quickly and will even show you where walls are and where there are holes in a floor and those kind of things," Potter said.

The cameras can be used to search for people in a burning structure, but the department has another set of handheld thermal cameras for that purpose.

Potter said the department plans to keep those handheld cameras as part of its repertoire, as well, and the department will be updating those cameras in the future.

Potter said the cameras are critical for the department and the safety and job function of its firefighters.

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