Joseph FD gets lifesaving camera

Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain Chief Wecks demonstrates the Joseph Fire Department's new tool. Three hand prints on the countertop are clearly visible on the thermal imagining camera.

Joseph Fire Department has received a new tool designed to help save lives: a thermal imaging camera. The hand-held device will record heat signatures, even many minutes after the source of the heat has passed.

When Fire Chief Jeffery Wecks demonstrated the device Thursday night he made a series of hand prints on a counter and then looked at the area with the camera. Even many minutes later, the hand prints were still clearly visible on the camera.

The benefit of that, Wecks explained, is that rescuers at a car crash can use the device to see heat signatures on the seats of a car and determine if one or more of the occupants have been ejected from the car.

“We use it for multiple things,” Wecks said. “We recently used it on the Ski Run Road fire to find hot spots in the timber.”

Another use is to see where the hot spots are in a burning structure or locate a heat source in a very smoky house.

“It’s way easier to find people in a smoky house as well,” Wecks said, “because you can see the heat signature in the shape of a person.”

The device was purchased thanks to a $5,000 grant from Wildhorse Foundation, matched by $2,500 from the fire department.

“This is the first thermal camera in the county,” said Wecks. “We’ll share it if other departments need it.”

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