On Dec. 16, the day after a tragic house fire in Taylorsville that claimed the life of a young boy, the Salt Lake City Fire Department presented to the public a thermal imaging device that was a gift from a local philanthropist. Local TV and radio stations chose to package the story along with follow-up reports on the deadly fire.
Unfortunately, the message that was erroneously being conveyed to the public was that perhaps such technology would have made a difference in the outcome of the Taylorsville tragedy.I believe that this raises false hope in a tragic situation where sadly no hope existed. When fire crews arrived, the fire was at a stage where entry into the home had become extremely dangerous, if not impossible. The firefighters who entered that bedroom to rescue that child did so at ultimate risk to themselves.
Make no mistake, thermal imaging technology is an extremely valuable asset to the fire service. A special device, called the Cairns Iris, is mounted on a fire-fighter's helmet and allows them to see through the dense smoke that normally renders firefighters blind while searching for victims.
However, this technology comes at a high price, $25,000 per thermal imager. Most fire departments nationwide cannot afford the cost of such technology. Salt Lake City and Sandy city have been most fortunate in that their citizenry have felt the need to provide their departments with these units.
Obviously, to have this technology available would be a tremendous benefit to any fire department. The unfortunate reality is that there has to be enough of these devices to go around; because a department has one doesn't mean that it will always be in the right place at the right time to make a difference.
Fire captain/public information officer
Salt Lake County Fire Department