Payson Fire Department's New Camera Sees Through Smoke

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The Payson Fire Department recently unveiled its new thermal imaging camera, allowing personnel from fire departments throughout the Rim country a chance to learn about its potential live-saving benefits. The device can also help crews analyze the path of a fire within walls and ceilings, increasing firefighter safety and effectiveness.

The training exercise was held at the Gila County maintenance yard East of Star Valley. A donated mobile home was burned, giving crews the chance to train in the use of the new device, as well as various other equipment and procedures.

"By having the capability of seeing through the smoke and toxic gasses, it will improve the safety of our firefighters greatly and when we have to do our primary searches in buildings under fire conditions, this camera will allow us to do that much more rapidly," Payson Fire Chief John Ross said. "The life safety aspect is paramount ... operationally, once our primary search is all clear. If the fire is a hidden fire, we can use this device to locate the fire within walls and concealed spaces."

Ross also said the camera allows crews to find the fire faster and, as a result, extinguish it with less damage to the structure.

To better understand why the new camera is such a useful tool for firefighters, it's beneficial to know what procedures they were forced to use without it.

"Traditionally, firefighters had to enter and crawl through the structure to search for any potential victims," Battalion Chief Martin deMasi said.

"Since visibility is often close to zero, this is usually done by feel and intuition."

With this camera, crews can now look directly through the smoke and easily find humans as well as determine hot spots within walls and ceilings.

"The ability to avoid hazards like holes in the floor, dropping ceilings and recognizing pre-flashover conditions will greatly boost firefighter safety," deMasi said.

The camera was purchased with donated funds from a Payson woman who wanted to remain anonymous.

"She said she had watched a television show the previous evening on thermal imaging technology, and how it's being used to save lives," Ross said. The next morning she walked into Ross' office, sat down and wrote a check for $25,000 to be used to purchase the equipment.

"Ultimately we hope to have two of these cameras," Ross said.

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