SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Saturday marks one week since Syracuse fire crews battled flames and heavy smoke at The Vinette Towers apartment building in Syracuse after a 38-year-old man caused an explosion trying to make his own fireworks.

The Syracuse Fire Department was on that scene for hours. A tool that helped firefighters locate the more than 150 victims and put those flames out are the department’s new thermal imaging cameras.

“It’s no exaggeration. Put your hand in front of your face, we can’t see a thing. These are a really useful tool that highlight heat signatures. We can use that for a variety of things, most importantly, being fire and victims.”


Thanks to a $73,000 FEMA grant, the Syracuse Fire Department was able to purchase nine new cameras to recently add to its fleet.

The cameras use heat signatures to give firefighters a clear image, especially when there’s heavy smoke.

The new cameras are more durable for fires and have enhanced SFD’s response and effectiveness, according to Chief Michael Monds.

These funds equipped all of our engine companies with modern, reliable, NFPA 1801-compliant thermal imaging cameras (TICs). Only 3 of our 9 engine companies had TICs.  As a result, many of the critical tasks that must be completed on emergency scenes were not done as quickly, efficiently, or effectively as possible. 

Our firefighters use these new TICs to gather critically important information for scene size-up, check thermal environments before they make entry, maintain situational awareness, locate victims in structure fires, identify heat signatures that are indicative of hidden fire, determine the temperature and location of hazardous materials from a safe distance, and rapidly locate victims of automobile accidents that may have been ejected from a vehicle. These TICs will improve safety and reduce risk for firefighters and the public we serve.


Two other scenarios where the thermal imaging cameras are relied on: water rescues and some car accidents.

In a water rescue where there’s little light, heat signatures can help guide firefighters.

If there’s a possible car ejection or rollover, the cameras help identify heat signatures on the actual seat of the car. This can indicate if somebody possibly got ejected from a car.

“Most of these situations, we’d still get to the end goal. We’d still be able to find the person or whatever we’re trying to accomplish…This is just the tool to take away a couple of those steps, and it’s a life saver.”


Each Syracuse fire station is equip with at least one thermal imaging camera, a tool that saves time and lives.