Local News

Technology Helps Fayetteville Fight Fires

Posted June 27, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— When we hear the sirens, see the trucks, and smell the smoke, we immediately know there's a fire nearby. But once inside a burning building, a firefighter's senses can blur. It can be down right impossible to see through all the smoke. That makes rescue efforts tough. But thanks to a new technology, the fight for life is being made more successful.

Where there's smoke, there's usually fire. But finding that fire can be tough, even for firefighters. A headlight does them no good when there's little or no visibility inside a burning structure.

A new helmet is equipped with an infrared video camera to see through the smoke. It helps firefighters find hot spots, even people who would otherwise be invisible.

Fayetteville Assistant Fire Chief Benny Nichols says it's the little fire or the missing victim that they hope to find. The helmet works by sensing a person or an object's heat. Once inside a building, a firefighter's eyes have to adjust to different heat indexes.

Nichols demonstrates the way heat remains in a body part. It's that heat perception that can reduce the amount of time needed at a fire scene, even the amount of damage firefighters cause trying to find hot spots. More importantly, the infrared camera can help save a life that might otherwisw have been lost in the smoke.

This technology doesn't come cheap. Just one infrared camera costs $25,000. Fayetteville's camera is one of about five in the state. The department is scheduled to get another sometime next year.