Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) in Firefighting

Delve into the innovative use of Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC) in firefighting. Discover how this technology enhances safety and efficiency in challenging environments.

Published:July 9, 2024
July 9, 2024

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    Delve into the innovative use of Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC) in firefighting. Discover how this technology enhances safety and efficiency in challenging environments.

    Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICs) are essential tools in firefighting, utilizing infrared technology to detect heat signatures and provide visibility in smoke-filled and/or dark environments. They enable firefighters to see through smoke, locate victims quickly, identify hotspots that might reignite, and navigate safely through hazardous conditions. By enhancing situational awareness, TICs significantly improve the effectiveness and safety of firefighting operations.4

    What Are Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICs)?

    As the name suggests, Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICs) capture and create an image of an object by using infrared radiation emitted from the object in a process called thermal imaging. Both infrared radiation and visible light are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, unlike visible light, infrared radiation cannot be seen by the human eye. This is why thermal cameras can produce clear images of objects even in dark environments, as they are unaffected by visible light. Thermal imaging involves converting infrared radiation into electrical signals to create an image. Through these cameras, images of warmer objects, such as a person or hot wires, display as an orange or yellow hue while colder objects display a blue or purple hue.1  

    thermal imaging camera (TIC) in firefighting

    Why Are Thermal Imaging Cameras an Indispensable Tool for Firefighting?

    TICs have become a vital asset to a firefighter’s toolset as they can offer substantial benefits to one’s situational awareness during an incident. A TIC can be pointed at a scene to quickly measure the temperature of the area. Any temperature differences or unusual spots show up as different colors on the display. Many TICs for firefighting are built to be tough and provide important help to firefighters in many situations.2

    What Are the Most Common Uses for Thermal Imaging Cameras?

    These cameras can be used in a variety of situations while significantly enhancing the speed and overall response effectiveness. A TIC can be used during the overhaul phase after completing search and rescue and fire suppression tasks. Handheld TICs are especially effective in this stage, as they provide firefighters with a greater range of motion and additional features such as digital temperature displays, multiple image display options, larger screens, and in-camera video storage. These cameras help firefighters quickly identify hot spots, lingering embers, and the fire’s origin, minimizing further damage during overhaul.

    In hazardous materials incidents, handheld TICs are also invaluable. They enable firefighters to see liquid products on the ground, identify the extent of a spill, and determine the amount of product remaining in a container. TICs can also indicate the location and spread of hazardous materials, even on water. This allows for quicker creation of necessary defensive measures.

    At motor vehicle crash scenes, particularly at night, handheld TICs help identify hazards like spilled fuels, locate missing individuals, and determine the scope of the incident. TICs enable incident commanders or safety officers to keep track of personnel in low-visibility conditions, improving overall scene safety and coordination.

    In outdoor search and rescue operations, TICs detect body heat, allowing searchers to see through light foliage, shadows, and fog. This technology makes searches more efficient, requiring fewer resources and personnel while increasing the likelihood of a successful rescue.

    During wildland fires, TICs are crucial for assessing the fire’s size and progress from both the ground and the air. They help firefighters identify hot spots and fire spread more accurately, reducing the risk of being caught by fast-moving flames. Additionally, TICs improve safety for vehicle operators by decreasing the likelihood of striking firefighters obscured by smoke, thereby preventing injuries and fatalities. Handheld thermal cameras play a vital role in various firefighting operations, making the work safer and more effective.3

    Advances in Thermal Imaging Cameras

    TIC technology for firefighting has improved drastically over the last few years, making it more available and affordable than before. Now, some companies put TIC technology into SCBA face pieces or the air gauge and PASS unit, so firefighters can keep their hands free. Still, handheld TICs are very useful because they often have more display features, options, in-camera storage, and can move around more freely, not limited by the helmet’s position.2

    Beyond helmets, thermal cameras mounted on drones provide a low-angle view of roofs and upper floors of tall buildings, making them useful for accurately mapping affected areas during large fires. These drones can monitor fire progression and detect blaze intensity from a safe distance. In addition to drones, emergency services utilize advanced robots for intervention in hostile environments. Equipped with thermal cameras, these robots can navigate through challenging terrains, allowing for the exploration of dangerous settings before human teams intervene. Capable of climbing stairs, overcoming small obstacles, and capturing photos, these robots are controlled via a touchscreen panel and offer a safer alternative to direct human intervention.4


    1. Omega, “Thermal Imaging Camera.” Accessed June 26, 2024.
    2. ESO, “Thermal Imaging Cameras for More Effective Firefighting.” Accessed June 28, 2024.
    3. FireRescue1, “5 Other Ways Firefighters Use Thermal Cameras.” Accessed July 1, 2024.
    4. LYNRED, “How Infrared Technology Helps Firefighters in Emergency Situations.” Accessed July 1, 2024.

    Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) in Firefighting

    Delve into the innovative use of Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC) in firefighting. Discover how this technology enhances safety and efficiency in challenging environments.

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