Thermal Imaging Camera Saves TN FF at Wildland Fire

April 4, 2022
A Sevier County firefighter trapped during a wildland fire used a thermal imaging camera to find his way to safety.

Sevier County firefighter Jim Carr was able to find his way to safety by using a thermal imaging camera after becoming trapped during the Wears Valley wildland fire.

Carr and other firefighters were battling the Wears Valley fire on March 30. During operations, conditions changed as the smoke closed in and everything went black. Carr found himself trapped by the approaching fire.

As the flames closed in, Carr began making his peace by recording a video for family and friends. “I had planned on laying on the phone,” Carr told News Channel 11. “So when they found me they would know what happened.”

Sevier County Fire Department Assistant Chief Stephanie Specht was working with Carr’s wife when she heard a department member was trapped while battling the fire and they were unable to contact him.

Specht approached Carr’s wife and had her call him, on the third attempt he answered and told his wife he was trapped.

Carr and his wife spoke briefly before handing the phone to Specht. Carr told Specht he was trapped and unsure if he could get the tanker out, he had searched the other trucks and the others had made it out.

Specht asked Carr if he could see an already burned-out egress path. The conditions were so poor, Carr stated he couldn’t see anything.

“For some unknown reason the thought of the TIC (Thermal Imaging Camera) popped into my head,” Specht told News Channel 11. Specht asked Carr if the tanker still had the piece of tech, which had been added to their kit within the last year, and he found it inside.

Specht told Carr to forget the truck and to get himself out of the fire, Carr used the TIC to find a spot he could egress through to safety.

Only one part of Tanker 111 remains unburned today, the TIC device that helped save Carr’s life. On it, Jim wrote “Saved 1 – Jim C SCVFD TK-111, 3-30-22 Hatcher Mnt,” News Channel 11 reported. 

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