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Story and photos by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor, published on September 5, 2017. Click here to read the original story.

The Elsmere Fire Department acquired a new thermal imaging device at the end of August, and it’s less expensive than the bigger hand-held cameras, allowing firefighters to use it hands-free.

Two SHDHS alumni benefitted from the new device. Geoffrey Murphy, Class of 2015, is an Elsmere firefighter/paramedic and Kyle Leidy, Class of 2005, works for Vogelpohl Fire Apparatus and installed the unit.

The new thermal imaging device is known as the I-TIC.

“The advantages of the I-TIC include that it works off a central power supply, so no separate batteries, it can’t be forgotten as it is integrated into the SCBA, it is easy to use without the snag hazard and additional weight, and it can easily be installed at the factory with the initial purchase of a G1 SCBA, or later in the field by an approved technician,” said Bubba Stultz, MSA First Responder Sales Manager.

The Elsmere Fire Department owns two larger hand-held thermal imaging cameras. This year, one of the firefighters signed up at a conference to win a new I-TIC unit and he won.

MSA then decided to donate another unit to the department so that Elsmere can test and evaluate it in the field.

“We are excited about providing this innovative piece of technology to Elsmere fire Department,” Stultz said, “and allowing them to test and evaluate this product in order to continue to develop and assess the advantages of the I-TIC.”

The larger hand-held unit has a cost of about $6,000, and help when it comes to finding victims of a fire, or finding the way out of a particularly bad fire. The downside is that most departments only own a few, so not every firefighter has one, and because firefighters need their hands to climb through buildings on fire, they might have to put it down occasionally.

The new unit replaces the control module that is already on the SCBA unit, and not only measures the PSI, or air levels in the air tank, it also is a thermal imaging unit that hangs down so that a firefighter can use his or her hands, and can pick up the unit when he or she needs it.

The larger unit has a slightly better camera, but it is not a discernible difference according to Stultz. The smaller unit provides optimal color, and it only weighs one-and-a-half ounces instead of four ounces as the larger one does.

Elsmere Fire Chief Paul LaFontaine is happy to have the units, and glad to do some testing with them.

“We do about 1,500 runs a year, so these units will definitely be used,” said LaFontaine. “Currently we use C Cell batteries, and they are recommending that we switch to rechargeable lithium ion batteries, because there is some draw on the batteries from the new units, and they say it will save us money. We will not switch right away.”

The department has 41 firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs.

They are eager to use the new piece of equipment.

“I am excited about this,” Geoffrey Murphy, a firefighter/paramedic, said. “It is a new tool for us to improve our ability to serve the community better.”

Kyle Leidy, of Vogelpohl Fire Apparatus, installed the unit Thursday and gave some tips on using it.

LaFontaine said that before thermal imaging units came into use, the frequency of finding a victim was 60 percent, and now it is 98 to 99 percent. He is very happy that Elsmere has another tool to save lives, especially one that is more user-friendly for the firefighters.

Photo: Elsmere chief Paul Lafontaine watches while Kyle Leidy shows Firefighter Geoffrey Murphy how to use the I-TIC unit