Thermal Imaging Technology Helps Firefighters See Through Smoke

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a person uses a video game-like controller to maneuver a camera's view on a computer screen. the person is doing it from inside the cabin of a plane
Heat from Oregon wildfires are detected and visualized on a monitor inside a plane using infrared thermal imaging technology. Credit: Kate Kaye

Wildfires are still raging out west, and states are using anything in their arsenals to fight back. This year, for the first time, Oregon’s Department of Forestry is using thermal imaging technology to see through thick smoke to the fires below. The state’s firefighting teams say this technology has been game-changing during this devastating wildfire season.

a small black camera attached to the wing of a plane
A thermal imaging camera device installed beneath a plane. Read a feature by Kaye from GeekWire. Credit: Kate Kaye

Thermal imaging technology uses infrared waves to detect heat, and then presents that information visually. These graphics make it possible to see exactly where the fire is moving, which areas are the hottest, and how much is actually burning. This information is crucial to firefighting teams on the ground, who can know with more certainty which areas are safe to enter.

Freelance tech reporter Kate Kaye from Portland, Oregon joins Ira to talk about seeing this tech in action in a plane several miles above the wildfires. 

Read more about the response team and the thermal imaging technology in a feature from GeekWire.

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