Thermal Imaging in Wildland Firefighting

Who in the world would knowingly choose a career that offers hours and hours or days and days of strenuous physical labor, limited clean air, no access to large-diameter hoselines, occasional high-altitude working environments, a tinfoil pouch to serve as...


Who in the world would knowingly choose a career that offers hours and hours or days and days of strenuous physical labor, limited clean air, no access to large-diameter hoselines, occasional high-altitude working environments, a tinfoil pouch to serve as personal protective equipment (PPE) and...


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Firefighters should be aware that thermal imaging technology is not a replacement for basic tactics. There may be times in mop up when a thermal imager cannot detect a hidden heat source, such as when the heat exists deep within a tree trunk. There may also be times when the image on the TI appears inconclusive to the user. When the TI is not providing as much information as desired, firefighters should rely on traditional techniques. If there is still doubt after using the TI along with traditional techniques, firefighters should err on the side of caution.

As with any other application of thermal imaging, planning and practice are the keys to effective technology usage. Firefighters must not only understand what they are seeing on the TI, but they must learn how to use this information seamlessly with the topographical and locational information they already employ on the job.

BRAD HARVEY is the Thermal Imaging Product Manager at Bullard. He is a veteran of public safety as a firefighter, police officer and paramedic and is certified through the Law Enforcement Thermographers' Association (LETA) as a thermal imaging instructor. Harvey has worked as a high-angle rescue instructor and is a certified rescue technician and fire instructor. If you have questions about thermal imaging, you may e-mail him at brad_harvey@bullard.com.