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Comment: Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

December 7, 2007 
By James Haley

Nothing excites fire fighters more than a new piece of equipment. But this excitement is not always positive. Take the Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC). It has taken quite a while to get this piece of equipment accepted for regular use because fire fighters have finally gotten it through their heads that this can make their job easier and more importantly safer. Easier in that it can help answer questions – how many were in the car (look, see the heat signatures on the car seats) and safer in that the TIC can "show" you where hot spots are, where the fire is and how hot it is – all questions one needs to have answered while advancing into a smoke-filled building, searching for occupants and the seat of the fire.

We have heard stories of fire fighters once issued a TIC, who sneered at it, chucked it in a compartment, with no thought of ever using it, just wanting to rely on their time-tested skills, thinking a TIC was "just another toy the chief bought." But it is not a toy and the TIC is not meant to replace any of our skills, merely to enhance them. But we have to be trained properly in its operation. Eventually, it should become as familiar as that hand tool you take with you every time you enter a building as part of an attack team, and quite possibly more worthwhile in the long run. But it is still just a tool and fire fighters should continue to rely on their proven tactics and fire fighting skills, using the TIC as an aid, a complementary tool, that can take a lot of the guesswork out of events on the fireground. We are glad to see more and more fire fighters using this tool, and not just having it sit in a compartment.

This new tool, one that can work very well for us and the public we serve, has many uses as are related this month by columnist Harold Harvey and guest writer Norbert LeBlanc. They point to the myriad of uses for a TIC, from locating victims and fire in a more expeditious manner to accident scene reconstruction, and beyond.

We mourn the loss of fire fighters killed in the line of duty while fighting wildfires out west this summer. While municipal fire fighters may not have a lot in common with these specialized fire fighters, we do have the common bond of the overall fire service – they are our brothers and sisters – and for those communities that have large tracts of wooded land around them, we often work in concert with wildland fire fighters. Just because these hardworking fire fighters don't have shiny apparatus doesn't mean they should be ignored by the rest of the fire service, especially when it come to line of duty deaths. We need to do more to honour these losses, like we do when a municipal fire fighter is lost. I know the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation honours wildland fire fighters killed while doing their job along with other LODDs every September at the memorial ceremony (visit for more details on this important Sept. 10 event), but I feel that the rest of us need to do more as well.


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