Howland firefighters equipped with new safety and rescue tool

HOWLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – The Howland Fire Department is one of the first in the area to receive the latest technology when it comes to thermal imaging cameras — and it’s built right into their masks.

“This is going to make our job so much easier when it comes to a fire,” Lt. James Williamson said.

Howland firefighters, equipped with the latest technology, are excited about their new mask-mounted thermal imaging cameras.

“There’s also a sight glass to where these both devices link up through bluetooth a project the image to the sight glass that the wearer will be able to see,” Williamson said.

It gives first responders running into a fire the ability to see temperature differences hands-free.

“It’s huge. Being able to go into a fire, differentiate between hot spots in the wall where the actual seat of the fire is. Also, it aids with locating victims,” said firefighter Brian Penick.

Chief James Pantalone said the technology makes it safer for firefighters, in addition to being a rescue tool.

Thermal imaging cameras have come a long way. Over 20 years ago, they were heavy and cost over $25,000. Newer ones average about $2,100.

Thanks to $133,000 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant, the department was able to buy six cameras and some other equipment, such as new airpacks.

“If this saves one person — a civilian or a firefighter — this is gonna pay itself in ten-fold,” Pantalone said.

The department started using these masks last week.