Thermal imaging cameras detect infrared light to allow firefighters to see through smoke or darkness.

Thermal imaging cameras detect infrared light to allow firefighters to see through smoke or darkness.

Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Fire Department


Rochester Hills Fire Department adds new thermal imaging cameras to its toolbox

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 13, 2021

 From the left, Bullard Regional Sales Manager Mark Jetton, Rochester Hills Fire Department Capt. Larry Gambotto, Fire Chief Sean Canto, Battalion Chief Rogers Claussen and Assistant Chief/Fire Marshall William Cooke accept the first delivery of Bullard TXS Thermal Imagers.

From the left, Bullard Regional Sales Manager Mark Jetton, Rochester Hills Fire Department Capt. Larry Gambotto, Fire Chief Sean Canto, Battalion Chief Rogers Claussen and Assistant Chief/Fire Marshall William Cooke accept the first delivery of Bullard TXS Thermal Imagers.

Photo provided by the Rochester Hills Fire Department

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ROCHESTER HILLS — When firefighters barrel into a building to battle a structure fire, Rochester Hills Fire Chief Sean Canto said, the smoke is so thick it’s essentially like putting a black blindfold over your eyes.

“Take a black blindfold, put it over your eyes and tell me where you are. Then get spun around, because I don’t know your house, I don’t know where your furniture is, I don’t know where the second-floor bedrooms are — that’s what it’s like,” he said.

But with the help of 50 new thermal imaging cameras, officials say the Rochester Hills Fire Department will be able to provide faster, more accurate rescue responses.

Thermal imaging cameras, Canto said, detect infrared light to allow firefighters to see through smoke and darkness, helping them find trapped victims, the seat of the fire, hot spots, doorways and hazards.

“If we had a firefighter even get lost or get disoriented, all he has to do is pull that camera up and he is going to be able to see where he’s at. He’s going to be able to see the heat and see the fire,” he explained.

The department previously only had one thermal imaging camera at its disposal, but thanks to the new purchase, every firefighter on duty will have access to one.

“The best thing is putting that camera in everybody’s hands, because now, everybody can see. Everybody is aware of their surroundings,” Canto said.

The Rochester Hills Fire Department is the first in the world to receive this particular model — the Bullard TXS Thermal Imaging Camera — which weighs 1.6 pounds, has a 3.5-inch display and features a one-button operation.

Bullard Thermal Imaging Product Manager Martijn Bosch said the camera was designed to be used on every call, getting more eyes on the fire and more imagers in the hands of firefighters.

“By offering a clear and detailed image even in the toughest conditions, firefighters can make decisions based on the details and easy-to-understand temperature colorization TXS provides. It’s an indispensable tool for firefighters,” he said in a statement.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said the city is focused on how it can find innovative solutions to improve the quality of life for its residents.

“This new investment in thermal (imaging cameras) will help enhance our fire response in addition to saving the lives and property of our residents,” Barnett said in a statement.

The 50 thermal imaging cameras — along with extra batteries, chargers and other accessories — cost the city approximately $130,000 from the Fire Department’s capital fund budget.

The Fire Department has received some thermal imaging cameras already, and Canto expects the remainder to be delivered by the end of the month.

“We have some of them right now in service,” Canto said. “Fortunately, we haven’t had the opportunity to use them yet at a structure fire, but we’ve trained with them under live fire conditions.”

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