New technology will help TVF&R rescue victims in the dark

With Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s new FLIR technology, a person in the water can easily be seen. (KATU Photo)

Firefighters are using new technology designed to save lives in dark and adverse conditions on the water.

The technology by FLIR, a local company, allows rescuers to see in the dark, fog and wintry conditions.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue demonstrated the technology to KATU on Friday night from its new boat.

With a swimmer in the water to play the part of a victim, Capt. Jon Voeller explained how the technology works.

“This is a grayscale,” he said about a monitor showing a black-and-white scene on the river. “What happens in the grayscale is any thermal difference – anything that’s warm is going to show white.”

Out of the grayness of the riverbank and the water, the swimmer could be easily seen on the monitor.

Using the boat’s floodlights to aid in the search would actually hinder the effort. Voeller said they would make the scene in the monitor diffused and unfocused. And he said the floodlights won’t work at all in the fog.

“(The new technology) works great in the fog,” he said. “That thermal image will pop right out, right through the fog. … This pretty much is a game-changer.”

TVF&R paid $10,000 out of its own budget for the technology.