Technology Gives Firefighters Chance to See Clearly


The Glendale Fire Dept. demonstrated new technology at an event in late January that allows firefighters to see through smoke.

The City of Glendale and the Glendale Fire Dept. partnered to equip firefighters with Seek Thermal Imaging Cameras. These cameras reveal different heat signatures and allow firefighters to find victims in a fire who are trapped, disoriented or lost. Firefighters can also use them to find hidden fires and heat sources that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

The department held a live fire rescue demonstration at its training center to show how the cameras work in action. Two firefighters lay on the floor to imitate victims in a fire then filled the room with smoke until people couldn’t see where they were. Then the thermal imaging cameras were turned on and used to identify the firefighters’ location in the smoke.

Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas said that having this technology will undoubtedly save lives.

“It’s technology that truly opens our eyes and allows us to see in other conditions that would be black and we wouldn’t be able to see our hand in front of our face,” he said. “It’s a tremendous advancement to our organization and to our capabilities.”

Two Glendale firefighters were rescued using these cameras two weeks ago when they fell through the floor in an apartment fire. Lanzas said using this technology is similar to soldiers using night vision goggles, except that it’s used to see in smoky conditions. 

He said that the fire department had already been using these cameras, but that there were only 12 in the city and usually worn by captains.

“The technology itself is not new to us; we have had thermal imaging cameras in the past,” he said. “However, these are individual cameras worn so each member of our fire department, all 50 on duty firefighters, carry this camera now.”

He added that 15 years ago, large thermal cameras could cost up to $20,000. Advancements in technology have made it so thermal cameras are now the size of flip phones and cost $850.

“It’s really a no brainer to increase our firefighter and civilian life safety by bringing this technology to the hands of each of our firefighters,” Lanzas said.