Australia –EVERY fire truck in WA will be equipped with hi-tech cameras that can see through bush and smoke to tell if someone is trapped in flames.
The Sunday Times can reveal $600,000 will be spent buying about 40 thermal-imaging cameras before the next bushfire season.
The cameras pick up body heat and are used mainly to locate people trapped in areas where rescuers cannot find them.
They can also be used to decide if a structure is safe to re-enter after a fire has been put out.
Meanwhile, a new national-first digital fire mapping system will be introduced within months to help avoid disasters such as Boorabbin.
In just 20 seconds, the program can predict a fire’s pattern for up to 12 hours calculating topography and fuel loads as well as latest conditions from the Bureau of Meteorology.
Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson told The Sunday Times that scientists from the University of WA spent five years developing the software.
“This provides information about how a fire is behaving, which can be passed to crews on the ground and in the air within minutes,” Mr Johnson said.
“In the past this information would have taken hours to calculate.
“It’s a fantastic example of a new, unique technique for fighting fires that will save lives and properties.”
In December 2007, two truck drivers were killed when their vehicles were engulfed by flames on Great Eastern Highway in Boorabbin. The deaths were caused because the Department of Environment and Conservation opened a roadblock in Coolgardie despite warnings a wind change could fan the fire into their path.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority chief operations officer Craig Hynes predicted WA would have another horror bushfire season this summer because of heavy winter rains producing a high fuel load.
The bushfire season is expected to start as early as September.
Mr Hynes said WA’s fire-fighting force relied on just a handful of thermal-imaging cameras.
The new cameras, designed by Draeger Safety Pacific, help firefighters and rescue teams see and quickly locate victims and hot spots in a smoke-filled or low-visibility environment.
UWA professor George Milne, who designed the fire-mapping software, said it was easy to use and could be activated from any laptop or smart phone with an internet connection.
“We can take a fire that is happening anywhere in Australia and predict its behaviour,” he said.