Signs Of Life

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A recent donation to the Payson Fire Department will help firefighters save countless lives in the future.

"It was May 9, at 11:15 a.m.," Payson Fire Chief John Ross said. "You tend to remember things like that."

That was when a Payson woman, who asked to remain anonymous, walked into his office, sat down and wrote the chief a check for $25,000 a donation that is to be used to buy the department a thermal imaging camera.

"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. "She decided ... the residents of Payson ought to have access to that technology."

Thermal imaging cameras use infrared technology to detect the differences in heat and mass inside a structure. Ross said the camera operates much like an X-ray machine does. He also said he was not aware of any other small fire departments in the state that have such a camera.

Ross said in one recent incident, the use of a thermal imaging camera would have drastically reduced the risk to his firefighters.

"An individual set fire to his own house," he said. "When we arrived, the house was full of furniture that had been turned over. It was very dangerous for our firefighters to do their primary search. As a result of that, we were in that structure for a very long time, under dangerous conditions."

The chief said it took firefighters eight to 10 minutes to locate the victim. With the camera, he said he thinks it would have only taken two or three minutes.

The fire department is currently trying out several different cameras. Ross said with costs on thermal imaging cameras coming down, by the time his crew decides which one they want, he hopes to be able to buy two with the donation.

"In my 25-year fire service career, I have never experienced (such) generosity," Ross said.

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