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Firefighters use a thermal imaging camera to make a lifesaving grab

Palm Bay Fire Rescue

Palm Bay, FL

When a burning building fills with smoke, a thermal imaging camera (TIC) may be a firefighter’s best chance for navigating the interior to locate and rescue victims. Firefighters with Palm Bay Fire Rescue in Florida made lifesaving use of a TIC when they entered a house fire and rescued a man and several dogs.

Topics Covered

Law Enforcement and Emergency Response
Wildfire

Cost

Initial: 3.5 Thousand USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2019

Gov Champion

Palm Bay Fire Rescue

Problem Addressed

Firefighters responding to a home on fire needed to quickly enter the building to find and rescue victims inside. 

The dispatch came in at 2 in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 16th after a Florida Power & Light worker noticed smoke coming from a house.

A car was in the driveway, but no one answered the door.

Firefighters arrived on the scene, having been informed by neighbors that a man, a woman, and eight dogs lived in the home. The first crew to arrive immediately went into rescue mode, meaning that they don’t stop to fight the fire, but instead, enter the building with the primary purpose of finding and rescuing victims inside.

While at the scene of a fire, firefighters have to act quickly. Structures that are on fire can very quickly collapse and it doesn't take long for victims trapped inside to suffer from smoke inhalation. Further, the smoky conditions present during a fire typically prevent firefighters from quickly finding and identifying victims.  

Solutions Used

Despite having zero visibility due to smoke, firefighters were able to identify victims using a thermal camera and make a lifesaving grab. 

Firefighters Robert McCarthy and Randy Rosseau with Palm Bay Fire Rescue in Florida made lifesaving use of a TIC, the FLIR K40, when they entered an active house fire and rescued a man and several dogs.

McCarthy and Rosseau went in with no hose or lifeline, just the tools they could carry on them, including forceful entry tools and the FLIR K40. Inside they discovered that the fire had begun in the kitchen and was now well-involved, filling the interior with smoke from floor to ceiling. There was zero visibility, making the TIC their only view of the scene.

The firefighters began sweeping the house using a right-hand search pattern, keeping one hand on the wall and scanning the rooms with the FLIR K40.

In the living room, they heard faint noises but were unable to see anything, and the victim was too disoriented to give directions. With the FLIR K40, McCarthy could see a person in the middle of the room, 20 feet in. Relying on the TIC, McCarthy and Rosseau crossed the smoke-filled space to locate the victim, and together they carried him out to the yard, where a medic was on hand to provide aid.

The firefighters immediately went back inside to search for the woman and the dogs. As it turned out, the woman had luckily been out of the house when the blaze ignited, but the pair quickly found one of the dogs unconscious, able to see a perfect image of the pet collapsed on the floor using the TIC. After carrying the dog out, they went back in and saved 2 more dogs before their air bottles ran out. Another crew found several more dogs inside and were able to carry them to safety.

This is a rare opportunity for firefighters to make a lifesaving grab, and is only possible because firefighters are ready and equipped at any moment to enter dangerous conditions. Division Chief Robert Furci commended their actions, saying that McCarthy and Rosseau are always “ready to do the right thing as soon as the situation arises,” and prepared to risk their own safety in the pursuit of saving lives.

Outcomes

1

Rescued victim from smoke-filled room using a thermal camera

2

Readily equipped firefighters were able to rescue a person and family pets in a quick and safe way.

Lessons Learned

1

Thermal Imaging Cameras make a huge difference in the time it takes to find and rescue people in hazardous situations.

Something Unique

The camera comes with MSX (Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging) technology, which is unique to FLIR. FLIR MSX® (Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging) adds visible light details to thermal images in real time for greater clarity, embedding edge and outline detail onto thermal readings. Unlike image fusing (merging of a visible light and thermal image), MSX does not dilute the thermal image or decrease thermal transparency.

Who Should Consider

Professional and volunteer fire departments of all sizes. FLIRs mission is to equip every firefighter with a Thermal Imaging Camera, and our portfolio caters to a number of budgets, from big to small.

Last Updated

Mar 23rd, 2022

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