Camera a boon to Bronson firemen

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By Claude Lewis

BRONSON –In the old days of firefighting, it was always very difficult to enter a smoke-filled structure trying to locate possible victims.

A lot of the time, someone couldn't be located until the fire was out and the smoke had cleared.

By that time, it can often be too late.

But modern technology now gives firefighters an added tool to find people in thick smoke conditions.

Thermal imaging cameras are indeed lifesavers.

"They locate victims quickly,"said Bronson Fire Chief Rick Lombardo.

Thanks to the good folks at Hallmark Fire Supply in Ocala, the Bronson Fire Department now has such a device at its disposal.

Lombardo and the other 14 firemen on the volunteer force have been learning how to use the hand-held device weighing four pounds.

It is indeed a boon to all of Bronson.

"One of the officers was doing research and calling around to find one for sale,"explained Lombardo. "He contacted Hallmark. They carry a lot of models. A lot of companies turn in older models for newer ones. I guess they felt bad we didn't have one. It showed up in the mail.

"It's like getting a new fire truck."

Although it's an older model, the Carins Viper still works as good as new.

It is worth $11,000 new and an estimated $5,000 used.

"You push a button and a TV screen lights up,"Lombardo explained of the screen measuring 6 inches by 6 inches. "If its dark or smoky, bodies show up as white images. It picks up the heat. It can even pick up the heat off our dummy –Rescue Randy. The plastic gives off enough heat."

Lombado noted that it is also valuable locating downed firemen and even pets.

"You can find a cup of coffee,"Lombardo said. "It can find hotspots after mop up. It can find a white spot inside an intact wall."

Off to the side of the screen is a thermometer that can tell exactly how hot the embers are.