Firefighters see through smoke

Thermal camera image of a fire inside a barrel.

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WPDE) - Firefighters in Georgetown County have a new piece of updated technology to use when they respond to a call, thermal imaging cameras. The cameras allow firefighters to see into a building through smoke and darkness.

The county bought 11 cameras to be split among county and Midway Fire Rescue stations. It took about six to eight months of researching the need before officials gave the green light on the purchase.

Firefighters just finished training on the new cameras and they are more than ready to put them to use.

"Very excited about it. There's a lot of departments in this country that aren't afforded even one thermal imaging camera where we were able to get four for our department, very fortunate to have four," explained Bob Beebe with Midway Fire Rescue.

With the new thermal imaging cameras, firefighters will be able to work more efficiently and the cameras will be used on scene from beginning to end.

"At least with the camera we're able to go in and do a quick scan of the room and move forward a lot quicker and do searches a lot faster to give those people extra minutes to possibly save their lives," said Beebe.

"They'll also help us with finding hot spots inside the structure. They allow us to make quicker knock downs of some fires because in zero visibility environment,we can actually get in and see where the fire is, " said Ryan Allen, a Georgetown County Fire/EMS Battalion Chief.

The cameras are equipped with a temperature gauge and the images they capture are also useful after a call.

Allen explained, "these have recording capabilities for us so that we can take them back into training and allow us to better educate our firefighters on how to use the cameras and how to make knock downs of fires.

The cameras also serve another purpose.

"It definitely helps out morale when they start seeing new things and it also allows for the administration of the department to show the guys that they care about them and that they want to make sure that they have the best materials and the best equipment for them," explained Beebe. "

The cameras aren't cheap, each one costs $10,000. Both men say the equipment upgrade is worth the expense.

"If we wait a long period of time to get to that better model the cost that comes into effect with it sometimes hurts us by waiting so long. As opposed to keeping current and it's a good thing for the departments to maintain up to date technology," added Beebe.

The cameras can also be used if they need to find someone in the woods or on a body of water.