Raytown fire department gets new masks with built-in thermal imaging cameras

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RAYTOWN, Mo. -- The Raytown Fire Protection district is the first force in the metro area to begin using thermal imaging sensors built into firefighters' masks.

If firefighters had had the new masks when they battled the deadly Raytown apartment fire on Feb. 7, it could've helped them escape the danger and get people out faster. Unlike bulky cameras that require one arm to use, the new sensors are built into the mask, allowing for hands-free operation.

Having both hands free is crucial for fire crews, allowing them to work much more efficiently when rescuing people and battling fires.

The cameras can detect body heat of people who might not otherwise be easily found.

The masks also provide temperature readouts so that firefighters can avoid dangerous heat that put them at risk of flashover.

Raytown purchased six masks, enough that one firefighter one each of the city's crews will have one.

They cost less than $1,000 each. The original thermal imaging cameras purchased by fire departments twenty years ago cost $20,000 each.