Thermal Imaging Camera – TIC

by on January 18, 2014

The Bobcaygeon Local

May 21, 2012
By Lisa Dever

Some consider a fire truck little more than a big, red, rolling tool box. Hoses, axes, pry bars, jaws of life, wrenches, channel-locks and cable cutters; oxygen tanks, ladders and nozzles. Fire fighters have to be prepared and ready for any challenge.

They have to take every tool with them every time they roll because they never know what they will need when they get to where they are going and where their pagers will send them next.

The newest tool in the box at Station 3 in Bobcaygeon is a Thermal Imaging Camera, or “TIC”. Used by fire fighters to see heat through smoke, darkness, or heat-permeable barriers, the thermo-graphic camera was purchased with $1,744 raised by Station 3 volunteers, $5,815 donated by the Bobcaygeon Legion and $3,225.20 from CKL Fire Rescue. At a total cost of $10,784.20, it could prove to be an invaluable tool in saving lives.

TICs render infrared radiation as visible light using five components: an optic system, detector, amplifier, signal processor, and display screen. Objects with normal temperatures are displayed in gray, dangerously hot surfaces display in different colors. Constructed with heat-resistant and water-resistant housings, the cameras are built to withstand the hazards and extreme conditions of fire fighting operations.

Initially developed using military technology, TICs have been available since the mid 1990’s. It was only after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the USA that the US government began approving grants for the purchase of the equipment. As availability increased, word spread throughout the North American industry about the benefits and necessity of adding TICs to the fire fighter’s arsenal of tools.

Like the Self-Contained-Breathing Apparatus “SCBA”, when the TICs were first made available to fire fighters they were considered prohibitively expensive. Again, like the SCBAs, time is proving them an indispensible part of fire fighting and many stations across Canada are fund-raising in order to purchase the device.

The TIC has several uses. With the ability to “see” through darkness or smoke, it allows firefighters to quickly find the seat of a structure fire, or find visually obscured victims. When faced with a fire, children will often hide under beds, in closets and behind furniture. The TIC helps the firefighters locate the children.

Additionally, it can be used to search for victims outdoors on a cool night, locate fires inside a wall, or detect overheating electrical wiring.

A standard tool for most Rapid Intervention Teams (“RIT”), the TIC enables fire fighters to more effectively reach and free trapped firefighters. Having the TIC in the box makes the fire fighters’ job easier and more importantly, safer. The TIC enables the RIT team to locate the trapped firefighter quickly. It also enables the RIT officer to monitor fire conditions on the inside while the RIT team conducts its operation.

Its applications are only limited by the situations encountered by the fire fighters. It will show heat signatures on car seats so fire fighters can tell how many people were in a recently crashed vehicle. It will show where hot spots are, where the fire is and how hot it is; all information fire fighters need answered while advancing into a smoke-filled structure to search for occupants and flames. When a fire has been “knocked down” scanning the area with the TIC will reveal any remaining hot spots or smoldering areas not apparent to the naked eye.

Station 3 fire fighters have been trained on camera use. Thanks to the volunteers, the Legion and Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue, the newest and perhaps most important tool is in the box. Fire fighters don’t want to have to use it, but having it in the box can make all the difference in the fight to put out fires or save a life.