MANASSAS PARK — Manassas Park firefighters have a new high-tech gadget they hope will save lives and time.
Early last summer the Manassas Park City Council approved a line-budget item that allowed the department to purchase a top-of-the-line thermal imaging system that will allow members of the department to scope out a burning house or smoke-filled room in a matter of seconds.
The Manassas Park department will be the first in the area to have such a piece of equipment, said Manassas Park Lt. Paul R. Stephens.
Stephens gave a short presentation to City Council during its Tuesday night meeting, and again to members of the Manassas Park fire department Thursday. When activated, the hand-held device acts like an infrared camera that lets a firefighter instantly spot a person who may be trapped in a burning, smoke-filled building, spot where a fire has originated, or if a fire is traveling in a wall, celling or floor space.
“Search and rescue is our primary concern,” Stephens said. “This allows us to do that better and faster.”
The device pinpoints not only a human or animal that may be hiding or trapped, but it allows rescuers to see tracks on a short-term basis.
During the demonstration, Manassas Park firefighters demonstrated how a child could be lying on a bed, then become scared and run to a closet when smokes starts to fill the room.
The imaging system will outline the body heat left on the bed for a short amount of time, and also footprints if the person was not wearing shoes.
“We have used it on every call we go on,” Stephens said. “We haven’t yet encountered a trapped person, which is good.”
Stephens said the device is on the “higher end” when it comes to cost, but believes it is worth it if it can help save a life.
The city paid for the majority of the $18,000 cost, with some funds coming from donations.
“We had a committee who researched several brands and they came back and said this one was the best one for us,” Stephens said. “We are thankful that the city found the funds available in its budget.”
Staff writer Trina Goethals can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.