Tech Zone

New Thermal Imaging Mask Technology Would Allow Firefighters to ‘See’ Heat

A firefighter wearing the Thermal on Demand face piece.

Recently developed firefighting technology would help firefighters “see” heat through their face piece, according to a news report.

The Lowell Sun reported on Thermal on Demand, a face mask and imaging system developed by BAE Systems. The idea is to give firefighters the ability to see in limited to zero-visibility environments, such as the interior of a structure fire.

With the Thermal on Demand mask setup, a periscopic camera juts out from a transparent lens over the right eye and two ventilators flank a hole over the mouth, where an oxygen tube can connect.

Its three thermal-imaging settings allow firefighters to clearly see the outlines of obstacles in pitch-black settings, according to the Sun report. Warm objects, such as a body or flames, appear as ghostly white figures.

Barry Lavoie, an engineer at BAE Systems, began developing the prototype in 2011 and has traveled the country demonstrating Thermal on Demand for fire departments and the military.

Lavoie told Fire Engineering via e-mail that the invention was inspired by Anthony Cronk, a combat veteran U.S. Marines firefighter who served in Iraq. Anthony is now active with the Lowell (MA) Fire Department. Barry’s grandfather, Archie Lavoie, was also a Lowell firefighter who served with the U.S. Navy. Archie, or Pepere, worked out of the same Branch Street firehouse, but he is no longer with us, Lavoie wrote.

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