HONOLULU (KHON2) — Firefighters are faced with many challenges in emergency situations and use a number of tools to help save lives. Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Jaimie Kinard said they recently located a man in a burning house using thermal imaging cameras.

The HFD 112th recruit class prepared to run rescue training Thursday.

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The simulation is as real as it gets. The recruits go into a dark, smoke-filled building, forced to crawl under and over multiple obstacles. The training is meant to be difficult and disorienting, to prepare them for the real thing.

The only thing missing is the fire they would face during a real life scenario.

Kinard said one of the tools they use to gather information and evaluate situations like this is a thermal imaging camera, or a TIC.

“The thermal imaging camera, it reads radiant heat on the surface of objects,” Kinard explained. “So if that object is heating up it shows a contrast on the camera so we’re able to tell.”

According to Kinard, they have been using them since the 2000’s. Every battalion chief and emergency fire response team has one.

It’s often used to help find hotspots or people in structure fires and it was one of the tools that helped them locate a 51-year-old man in a Waipahu house fire on Monday, July 4th.

“We were able to find an occupant, a single occupant, in the structure and locate him between the bed and the wall,” Kinard said. “We were really relying on our proper search techniques because he had covered himself with clothes and blankets so it would’ve been difficult to find him with only the thermal imaging camera. But it certainly was a tool that we implemented in saving a life.”

Kinard said they also use the TIC to help find lost hikers and in crashes where a passenger is thrown from a vehicle at night.

Their drones are also equipped with TIC’s and used to find hotspots in brush fires.

While it is a useful tool, Kinard said there are some limitations because it cannot see through walls or other solid objects.

“It will only read the heat of an object,” Kinard explained. “So if there’s furniture, we still need to look underneath the furniture. If it’s a bed, on top of the furniture and around it. It can’t read through certain materials and with water or glass it will actually reflect so it can be misleading.”

The video showed the TIC picking up the reflection off the wall, cast from the smoke machine during the training simulation.

Even with its limitations, it has become an important lifesaving tool.

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“It’s just a bonus in helping us do our job more efficiently and safely.”