By William C. Singleton III
The Vestavia Hills Fire Department will be getting new thermal imaging cameras to help fight fires and assist in rescue missions.
The city’s fire department recently received a $45,538 grant through the American Fire Act to buy eight thermal imaging cameras.
Vestavia Hills must put up $5,059 to satisfy the grant’s matching-funds requirement. Along with the cameras, the grant will also cover the purchase of extra charging bases for reserve vehicles.
Thermal imagining cameras help firefighters locate hotspots in structure fires, identify and detect by reading body heat victims ejected in car accidents or lost in the woods and distinguish liquid chemicals during hazardous material spills.
“The use of these cameras is really endless,” said Lt. Ryan Farrell, spokesman for the Vestavia Hills Fire Department.
Fire Chief Jim St. John said the department uses the cameras hundreds of times throughout the year.
Fire officials said the department currently has five older model thermal imaging cameras which are bulkier and less technologically advanced than the new cameras.
“The previous cameras weight about 10 pounds, which is a lot when you’re trying to carry that and everything else you need to fight a fire,” St. John said.
The battery life is shorter in the older model cameras, and because the cameras use older technology, it becomes harder to find parts for repairs, the fire chief said. The older models also cost $13,000 each, St. John added.
The new cameras are lighter, more durable, have a longer battery life and cost about $4,000 each, St. John said. Not only will the price allow the fire department to buy more cameras but it will allow the department to equip each of its front-line vehicles with a thermal imagining camera, he said.
“We’ll be able to get one for the battalion chief’s car and each of the three rescue transport vehicles we have,” St. John said.
Farrell said the department is currently writing specs and standards for the bid process. If the process flows smoothly, Farrell said he expects the department will receive the cameras in the next few months.