There are several obstacles that firefighters run into when they are fighting fires. One problem is that there are hot spots left over from the fire. Those hot spots can later flare back up and cause the fire to start again. Another problem is low visibility. Smoke can make it hard for firefighters to see what they are doing. There is one tool that firefighters can use to help with both problems. That is a thermal infrared camera, or thermal imaging camera.
Thermal Imaging Cameras
Thermal imaging cameras use technology that can turn normally invisible infrared radiation into something that can be easily seen on the camera's screen. The more heat any particular area produces, the more infrared radiation is produced. That particular area will show up as a bright spot on the camera's screen while colder areas will be darker.
Thermal imaging cameras work on hot spots that are hidden in the walls, floors, or ceilings. Since the cameras don't depend on the visible light but instead pick up the heat, they can be used to see where that heat is coming from, even if it's through a wall. As long as the air and surfaces around the hot spot get hot, they will show up on the infrared camera.
Firefighters can't necessarily wait until the smoke clears so that they can try to fight the fire. Waiting for the smoke to go away just means that the fire is going to get worse. Trying to fight the fire or to find someone who may be trapped in the structure can be very difficult if the firefighters can't see where they are going easily. The thermal imaging camera lets the firefighters see more clearly. The cameras come in both handheld and helmet mounted versions. A helmet mounted camera will let the firefighter see through the smoke without impeding their ability to carry the hose, an axe, or being able to help rescue anyone.
Another use that fire departments have for thermal imagining cameras is to help find survivors after any kind of disaster. The body heat of survivors will show up on the cameras, letting firefighters and other search and rescue workers know exactly where to go to find the survivor.
Thermal imaging cameras make firefighters' jobs easier. The cameras will let the firefighters see things that they would not otherwise be able to see and let them fight the fire easier.