Could Thermal Imaging Cameras Have Saved Man’s Life In Spokane H - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Could Thermal Imaging Cameras Have Saved Man’s Life In Spokane House Fire? Perhaps Not

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SPOKANE, Wash – The Spokane Fire Department has been using thermal imaging cameras, known as "TIC's" for years, not only in house fires but also car crashes and even outdoor searches.

They have 18 of the cameras now – enough for every first response truck within the department to carry one; including the truck that arrived at a fire in a converted 6-unit apartment building on the lower South Hill Thursday, in which a 50-year-old old man was found dead under a pile of clothes in the closet after crews did a primary and secondary search of the building.

"I know there were TIC's on scene, I know they were utilized at some point during the fire, but I can't verify if the crew that was doing that first primary search had a TIC with them or not," Deputy Chief David Leavenworth said.

The cameras rely on differences in temperature in order to produce an image.  In a simulation, firefighters showed us that putting a plastic tarp over a man on the ground significantly impacted the TIC's ability to find him. 

In Thursday's fire, the deceased man was found under a pile of clothes in the closet – clothes that would have been the same temperature as the room.  Deputy Chief Leavenworth said in that case using the TIC may not have helped.

"I think in this case, with the amount of clothing that was discovered on top of him, it would have been very difficult for the TIC to see his heat signature in that room," he added.

Leavenworth said this is a tough loss for the department – particularly for the crews who responded on Thursday – and the department will be holding meetings and training sessions to make this a learning moment and improve in the future.

Leavenworth recalled a situation just a few years back in which the TIC's proved to be lifesaving:

"Crews utilized a TIC to rescue a young boy out of a basement in Hillyard who was on fire, he was trapped, it was filled with smoke, and our crews found him within seconds," explaining that the boy was rescued and survived.

However, as we all learned last week, every fire is different, and sometimes the circumstances are out of the hands of the firefighters who arrive.

 

 

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