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Thermal Imaging Camera Takes The Guessing Out Of Firefighting

December 2, 2005 -- Collin County Community College District (Collin) fire science students can now see in the dark.

The program recently received a thermal imaging camera for use during live fire training.

"The infrared technology senses thermal heat and creates an electronic picture enabling firefighters to locate fire or hot spots not visible to the naked eye," Fire Science Program Director Pat McAuliff said. "The camera can easily distinguish objects from victims in fires allowing firefighters to conduct faster and more effective searches."

The camera was given to the program by David Kearney and Glen Francisco of L3 Communications in addition to a certificate recognizing the college for its support and contributions toward the development of thermal imaging technology. The college created live fire scenarios for infrared engineers to measure and calibrate thermal readings, McAuliff said.

"We are very pleased to receive this camera," he said. "The thermal imager allows us to teach proper procedures when using the camera to find victims or hidden fires in structures. For firefighters, it's like giving a blind person the gift of sight."

The T3MAX model camera is assembled and distributed by Bullard and it allows fire academy instructors to monitor student performance while working in dark, smoke filled rooms.

"Before thermal imaging technology, our instructors spent a lot of time leading students through the fire building. Now they can evaluate student performance more accurately and increase the level of safety during the live fire sessions," McAuliff said.

A number of area fire departments use thermal imaging cameras to find hidden fires and hot spots. The camera is effective when departments receive calls indicating a "smell of smoke." Firefighters can locate overheated electrical outlets or hot wires behind walls.

The thermal imaging cameras allow firefighters to locate hot spots or hidden fires inside structures using infrared to sense thermal energy.

The cameras can locate liquid levels in storage tanks and containers during hazardous materials calls. The cost range for a thermal imaging camera is $9,000-20,000.

The Fire Science program at Collin College provides training to fire departments in Collin and surrounding counties. In addition, Collin offers basic firefighter certification courses for those interested in becoming a firefighter. For information, contact the Fire Science office at 972.548.6836 or visit

Collin County Community College District (Collin) serves more than 40,000 credit and continuing education students annually and offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The only public college in the county, Collin is a partner to business, government and industry, providing customized training and work force development.