Thermal cameras help Tulsa Fire Department battle fires

by: Tiffany Alaniz Updated:

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TULSA, Okla. - Fire investigators say a heating oven left on overnight caused an early-morning business fire Friday.
 
It happened at Lektron Lighting Technology near 51st and Memorial.
 
When firefighters arrived at the fire early Friday morning, they forced entry into a building filled with smoke.  FOX23 found out they used a thermal imaging camera. 
 
Friday morning, it helped them find the fire.
 
“For us it’s invaluable,” said Capt. Stan May, with the Tulsa Fire Department.
 
FOX23 cameras were rolling as firefighters worked inside, battling the smoke and fire.
 
“You’re trying to feel your way, trying to feel the heat, you can’t see anything at all, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You’re trying everything you can to find that fire and anything else inside… so it’s pretty daunting,” said Capt. John Sawyer with TFD.
 
Once they were out, they showed FOX23 how the thermal imaging camera works. FOX23 learned each one costs $12,000.
 
“So we’re going to have to search a 20,000-square foot building for not only the source of the fire but if there’s anybody in there.  The camera allowed them to go straight to the oven that had malfunctioned,” said May.
 
The Tulsa Fire Department has 30 cameras.
 
“Any way we can acquire them we do, committee of 100 they donated several a few years back, we’ve had other people donate some, sometimes we try to get them out of our budget, sometimes we order them with a new truck,” said May.
 
FOX23 found out the cameras aren’t just used at fires, they can also be used in a building collapse or even if a hiker is missing and they are searching overnight. 
 
“At $12,000 a piece we can’t really afford to buy 30 new ones every couple of years so we have to kind of rotate them in and as they get a little older and need repair, we try to trade those out,” said May.
 
“Lektron managers told FOX23 the damage was mostly contained to the area where the oven was set up and their sprinkler system helped save the building.