Fire Fighting

Infrared camera finds a prone victim through thick smoke.
(courtesy of Sierra Pacific Infrared)

Using infrared cameras on helicopters, airplanes and satellites, fire fighters can take photographs and discover where the heat is most intense (the hot spots), allowing them to focus on the most dangerous areas. FireMapper, a US Department of Agriculture/ Forest Services system, uses thermal infrared images to detect the hot flames, which are often obscured by thick smoke. NASA research aircraft carrying infrared sensors have also aided in fighting major fires.

NASA engineers have developed a hand-held infrared camera that not only can see through dense smoke but can also detect the invisible flames of alcohol and hydrogen fires. In structural fires, infrared cameras are used to detect hot spots in walls and roofs, and even to assess the likelihood of fires behind doors. Firemen also use the cameras for poor visibility navigation and to locate people and animals that may be trapped by heavy smoke. Thermal infrared imaging is also an important fire prevention tool, allowing for the detection and repair of overloaded electrical circuits before they cause a fire.

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