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Thermal Imager

Some of you may have wondered, what does it *really* look like inside a burning building? It looks like this:

This is "fake" smoke generated as part of a training exercise in the soon to be demolished former Albion Police/Fire Department building. In an actual fire, visibility isn't quite this good.

Now, here's the same room, with the picture held a few inches from our high-dollar thermal imager camera:

What you're seeing is a space heater in one corner of a room, simulating the heat of a fire. Not nearly as hot as the real thing. Here's a group of firefighters on the other side of a large room, in zero visibility:

So, with the thermal imager we can see sources of heat -- whether open burning or hidden in the walls and ceiling -- other firefighters, victims, holes in the floors, escape routes ...

Without the thermal imager, which costs about $10,000, we can see .... nothing. Any questions about why we really love those things? There. I've done my part for Fire Prevention and Education Week. :-)


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 27th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
Scary stuff (visibility in smoke-filled room. You're a braver--or crazier--man than I) and cool stuff (thermal imager). Though I'm curious, can the imager get overwhelmed by a hot fire so that you wouldn't be able to see another fireman near it (i.e. the fireman's relatively low heat image is lost in the "thermal glare" of the hotter fire)?
Sep. 28th, 2006 08:06 am (UTC)
crazier is probably more accurate
That's an excellent question. There's a throttle on the T.I., so you can adjust it for hotter temperatures, and still pick up firefighters or victims by the temperature differences between them and the fire.

It's possible for a room to get so hot that the image washes out entirely, but no one could survive for more than seconds in those conditions anyway. Most people don't know this, but structural firefighter protective clothing is not "entry" gear, such as the silvery stuff plane crash crews have -- my turnout gear would deteriorate quickly if in direct contact with flames. So if it's too hot for the T.I. to see, it's too hot for me to be there.
Sep. 27th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC)
That is genuinely fascinating, thank you!
Sep. 28th, 2006 08:07 am (UTC)
I thought it was interesting, but talking about firefighting is like talking about writing (or BtVS): It's hard to really tell if the energy and interest is in your audience, or in yourself.
Sep. 27th, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
wow, that's cool! The thermal imager thing I mean, not the fact that things get on fire. :D
Sep. 28th, 2006 08:09 am (UTC)
Well, the science of fire can be kind of interesting, too. :-) But yes, the thermal imager is great -- I hope the price will be coming down. We have military research to thank for the technology ... in fact, a lot of firefighting technology is handed down from the military or the space program. Strange how that works.
Sep. 27th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
so have they finally erected a structure in that field off 109?
Sep. 28th, 2006 08:11 am (UTC)
Noble Township Fire Dept
No, they're still trying to fund it, after running into technical problems with their grant requests. Noble Township doesn't have a lot of industrial or business infrastructure, and since almost all fire department funding comes from property taxes, it's hard for them to come up with enough money for big projects. They're still working on it, though.
Sep. 28th, 2006 09:41 am (UTC)
Re: Noble Township Fire Dept
oy. it seems like an odd place for a FD. *shrug*
Sep. 28th, 2006 10:24 am (UTC)
Re: Noble Township Fire Dept
It's all about being centralized, and it's also a bit of a compromise; the lion's share of Noble Township's businesses and industries tend to be toward the north, but the population, and thus the volunteer firefighters, tend to lie to the south. So they're trying to strike a balance between manpower and what needs to be protected.
Sep. 27th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
When I was in an apartment fire 20 years ago, I could hardly find the door, and didn't think I'd be able to breathe long enough to reach it.


You guys rock.
Sep. 28th, 2006 08:02 am (UTC)
You have to keep your nose as close to the floor as possible -- if there's any breathable air at all, it's there, and that's also where visibility is best.

Of course, the real trick is to have a smoke detector, so you can get out before it gets that bad.
Sep. 28th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
You didn't go into the job for the scenic views, then?
Sep. 28th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
But I am right there with you on the hot firefighters :)
Sep. 29th, 2006 10:20 pm (UTC)
Well, we all look good in those visual conditions!
Sep. 29th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
Actually, the view can be pretty spectacular -- *outside*. I don't think scenic is the term, though ...
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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