Saugus looks through lens on fire safety

Saugus firefighter Paul Sullivan demonstrates the Bullard T3MAX infrared camera on firefighter Ryan Poussad.


SAUGUS — The Saugus Fire Department will purchase three new thermal imaging cameras to assist with rescues, thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Thermal imaging cameras are fantastic tools to find fire,” said Fire Chief Michael Newbury. “They’re the best tool that I’ve seen in my career to find fire victims.”

The devices cost between $10,000 and $11,000 each and are mounted inside each truck to be used during any situation that includes smoke, said Newbury.

“If you can’t see because of the smoke, you point the camera in the direction of the smoke and it identifies where the hot spot is so you can find the fire and put it out,” said Newbury. “At the same time, you can see people or at least the outline of the body. It picks up on different temperatures so at 98.6 degrees, you could see (a person).”

The cameras are also lent to the Police Department when officers are looking for a missing person. Wooded areas can easily be scanned to identify if a person is there but can’t easily be spotted.

Saugus was one of nine fire departments in the state to receive more than $1.25 million in round six of the 2016 Assistance to Firefighters Grants. The awards are intended to provide critical resources to train and equip emergency personnel to meet official standards, increase efficiency and interoperability, and help make departments and the communities they serve more resilient.

Other towns received money for breathing apparatuses, rapid intervention packs, sprinkler systems, chest compression devices, power stretchers, and training costs.

“Our firefighters play an integral role in keeping our communities safe,” said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) in a statement. “They deserve top-quality equipment to do their jobs, and this federal grant will enable the Saugus Fire Department to upgrade its thermal imaging cameras so they can quickly and safely fight fires and save lives. I am grateful to FEMA for recognizing the need to invest in our local fire departments.”

Several of the Saugus Fire Departments thermal imaging cameras date back more than a decade. Saugus applied for the grant after searching for parts to repair an old device with a broken screen. Newbury was told the parts are no longer available.

The three new cameras will be secured on Engine 3, Engine 1, and Ladder 1; the station’s three front line vehicles. The older cameras will drop to reserve status and be used as backups until they no longer work, he said.

Newbury said he is grateful Town Manager Scott Crabtree allowed the department to apply for the funding.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

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