Amid looming job cuts, Ashland firefighters gifted new thermal imaging devices

A member of Ashland Fire-Rescue shows off the new thermal imaging device to Ashland City Administrator Kelly Madding (hidden). (News 10/Mike Marut)

Ashland Fire & Rescue found out months ago they may need to cut three firefighter positions ahead of fire season.

As a silver lining, the agency received four new thermal imaging devices courtesy of Firehouse Subs in Medford. The devices will be mounted in various places with the firefighter gear, including one camera near the captain's chair on one of their firetrucks.

With different settings, the devices can help crews in a variety of ways depending on situations. According to one of AFR's engineers, the agency has used a thermal imaging device when looking for a missing person in the winter months. Ahead of fire season, the devices can also help crews "see" through the smoke of wildfires and eliminate hot spots. The cameras themselves operate by changing the views based on heat levels. For example, one option would be to look through the camera and see temperature differences from 0 to 2000 degrees while another setting can detect differences between 0 and 500 degrees.

"We've already got the cameras on the apparatus, we've got our people trained to use them, so we're ready to go," Chief Mike D'Orazi said.

The agency will be mounting at least one camera behind the captain's chair in one of their firetrucks. The rest will be dispersed along other pieces of equipment. D'Orazi confirmed the four new imaging devices are replacing old ones that had been in the agency for years. As an example, D'Orazi noted one of them had batteries that did not last long and the rest were generally inefficient, although he did not specify how.

D'Orazi may be asked to speak at the Ashland Budget Committee meeting Wednesday night at 6:00 and defend the utility of the three firefighter positions that are on the chopping block. He says AFR needs the positions to utilize the tools at hand properly and plans to use the thermal imaging devices in his presentation.

"I try to make sure our policy makers understand the relationship between staffing and type of work we do because firefighting is teamwork," D'Orazi said. "You need people, well-trained, professional people to do that with this type of equipment."

Firehouse Subs was able to provide the money to purchase the equipment through a $21,000 grant. This was the sixth grant from Firehouse Subs in Medford, one for each fiscal quarter they've been in business. If you would like to submit a proposal to Firehouse Subs, click here. For more information and Frequently Asked Questions about the grants and who can apply, click here.

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