Near-Miss: Chicago

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					                        THERMAL IMAGING TRAINING                                                                      >>>

What Our Brothers from the CFD Can Teach the Rest of Us

          n May 15, 2009, Chicago Fire                             the thermal imager played that caused the          ever, the absence of heat signatures actually
          Department (CFD) Engine 101                              CFD to contact me for help.                        tells you nothing. When navigating a build-
          and Truck 41 responded to a fire                              The first lesson is simple – take the ther-   ing, the absence of heat signatures is not the
alarm. Once on the scene, they encoun-                             mal imager with you. Too many times, fire          same as an “all clear.”
tered a two-story, ordinary construction,                          companies leave the thermal imager on the               The third lesson has to do with ther-
multi-occupancy (residential over com-                             apparatus thinking they                                            mal contrast. The firefighters
mercial) structure with smoke showing                              will come back for it “if                                          report that the image they
from the second story. After forcing en-                           they need it.” In this case,      We can talk                      saw on the imager while
try, crews were met by heavy smoke con-                            the CFD members took                                               scanning the stairwell was
ditions. Using their thermal imager, the                           the imager with them from        about thermal                     somewhat bland and poor in
crews quickly located the stairway to the                          the time they stepped off                                          contrast. There are numer-
residential second floor, scanned the stair-
well with their thermal imager and seeing
                                                                   the apparatus and it served
                                                                   multiple roles in the ensu-
                                                                                                   imaging tactics                    ous potential causes for this
                                                                                                                                      that are far too technical to
nothing out of the ordinary, proceeded up
the stairs with a fully charged handline.
                                                                   ing incident. Owning a
                                                                   thermal imager is not valu-
                                                                                                   theoretically all                  discuss in this column, but
                                                                                                                                      there is a way to address it.
     As the crews approached the sec-                              able. Using a thermal im-                                          In this case, the crews were
ond-floor landing, the nozzleman came                              ager is valuable.                 we want, but                     equipped with 150 gallons
upon a small fire on the carpeting of the                               The second lesson                                             per minute of liquid con-
stairs and after extinguishing it, noticed                         has to do with insulators.      there is nothing                   trast. A quick O-pattern with
a small opening in the stairway. After he                          When the companies lo-                                             a straight stream will dra-
announced the hazard to the other mem-
bers, they proceeded up the staircase. Just
                                                                   cated the stairwell to the
                                                                   second floor, they used the
                                                                                                  like a real-world                   matically change the thermal
                                                                                                                                      contrast within the stairwell
before reaching the second floor, the stairs
became spongy and suddenly collapsed,
                                                                   thermal imager to scan for
                                                                   any visible thermal sig-
Description: The final lesson to learn is the value of basic skills enhanced by thermal imaging, rather than basic skills replaced by thermal imaging. A thermal imager will not make you a better firefighter. You have to be that on your own. If you are ineffective without a thermal imager, then you will simply be ineffective with a thermal imager.
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