Former chief donates thermal imaging devices to Milwaukee Fire Department

Posted at 5:54 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 18:54:31-04

The Milwaukee Fire Department received a gift that could help save the lives of people trapped inside burning buildings.

Paul Conway, a former Milwaukee Fire Chief, donated eight new thermal imaging devices after a Milwaukee Fire Lieutenant fell from the second floor of an apartment complex while searching for people back in April.

"He was unable to see what he was doing what they call a primary search, he fell and became injured," Conway said.

Thermal imaging detects heat given off by an object or person. The technology was already being used by Milwaukee firefighters, but there's one major difference: size.

"This shrinks it down, makes it durable and makes it so each firefighter can carry one," said Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing.

Rohlfing says Milwaukee firefighters often find themselves in dangerous situations. Sometimes the smoke is so thick they can't even see their hand in front of their face. The new handheld devices called Seek Thermal Reveal Pro will help them find their way out of the dark and get victims to safety.

"Whether it's obstructions, couches, whether you're on a staircase - and also victims or those people we might be searching for," he said.

This $700 device works with just one press of a button. Conway says the new technology has proven its value in the most hostile environments.

"In our history, we have had a fire officer fall through a floor; use this camera to find his way out of the basement," said Conway.

The Milwaukee Fire Department plans to have all eight devices in their rescue trucks by next week.

The thermal imaging cameras are already being used by 17 Wisconsin fire departments including Wauwatosa and West Allis.Wauwatosa and West Allis.