Great Bend firefighters train to use thermal imaging cameras

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) — One piece of technology is helping fire crews fight fires more efficiently. It’s called a thermal imaging camera. While the tool isn’t brand new, fire departments across the nation are now pushing their crews to start using them more.

When fighting fires, heavy smoke leaves fire crews blind — making it nearly impossible to see anything.

“The way firefighters have been working, for the last 100 years, they’ve been doing everything by touch and feel,” explained John Forristall, captain of the Boston Fire Department.

Forristall worked with Great Bend fire crews for two days, training them how to use the thermal imaging cameras to see through the smoke.

According to Forristall, firefighters usually find victims by bumping into them.

With the cameras, crews can see an image using temperature — something firefighters can’t see normally.

“We can actually monitor the conditions from inside the fire, where we never had the ability to do that before,” Forristall said.

Great Bend firefighters said they appreciate today’s training, and know the camera will be a beneficial tool for them.

“It is something that is a lot faster to find a victim,” said firefighter Tony Leeds.”And also safer for us when we go into a structure.”

The Great Bend Fire Department has had the cameras for more than 20 years. However, the department had only two thermal imaging helmet cameras — costing around $25,000 each. Since then, the price has dropped tremendously. The fire department now has six handheld thermal cameras, which are only $5,000 a piece.

As the thermal imaging cameras continue to advance, it’s important for departments to stay up to date with the technology.