The Superior Fire Department put a new thermal imaging camera into service Monday, July 13. The unit, which replaces one that was destroyed in a February house fire, was purchased with an $8,000 donation from the National Bank of Commerce.

The camera is a critical piece of equipment for firefighters.

“We go on 4,000 calls a year,” said Fire Chief Scott Gordon. “This camera goes on every call.”

Whether searching for people in a smoke-filled building, seeking out hot spots in walls or checking the output of light fixtures, thermal imaging cameras help firefighters do their job more quickly and efficiently. Gordon said a camera cuts the time it takes firefighters to search for victims in half.

“And you just never know, it might be your friend, it might be your relative, you could save that person’s life or, at the minimum, make our jobs easier,” the chief said.

Each of the Superior engines is equipped with a thermal imaging camera. When firefighters enter a structure fire, Gordon said, one person holds the nozzle of the hose, the other carries the camera to search for people and pets.

The old camera was destroyed on the job. While battling a Feb. 4 house fire, firefighters detected a person. They dropped both camera and nozzle to focus on the victim.

“We always look to life safety first,” Gordon said.

As firefighters pulled the 52-year-old man out of the home and administered CPR, the ceiling collapsed on the equipment. The department didn’t have an extra $8,000 in the budget for a new one. That left Engine 2 without a camera, although Gordon said they’ve been utilizing the cameras from other trucks as needed.

Superior Fire Chief Scott Gordon shows the thermal infrared camera that was destroyed in a fire earlier this year at the fire department headquarters Monday, July 13. Firefighters got a person out of a building in February and were administering CPR, but left the camera behind. The building's roof collapsed, destroying the camera. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Fire Chief Scott Gordon shows the thermal infrared camera that was destroyed in a fire earlier this year at the fire department headquarters Monday, July 13. Firefighters got a person out of a building in February and were administering CPR, but left the camera behind. The building's roof collapsed, destroying the camera. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

One of the department’s younger firefighters learned about the National Bank of Commerce grant program and brought it forward to Battalion Chief Camron Vollbrecht. Marketing Director Hannah Horman said that the bank gives up to $265,000 back to the community each year through donations, sponsorships and public relations initiatives.

“It’s part of being a community bank,” said President and CEO Steve Burgess.

This isn't the first time the business has stepped up to help. In 2018, National Bank of Commerce donated a house on North 12th Street to the fire department for live burn training.

The thermal imaging camera has a chance to impact residents, firefighters and businesses, Horman said.

“Being able to give money for something like this that could literally save lives is cool,” she said, and she appreciated getting to see it first-hand July 13.

The turnaround time from application to receiving the funds was fast, Gordon said. It took longer to wait for the camera to ship than to get the grant.

Taxpayers have been very generous to the fire department, Gordon said. They have a great amount of equipment and personnel, but he said nothing is budgeted for unexpected equipment loss. National Bank of Commerce’s gift filled that need.

“These partnerships that we’re forming with businesses in our community is what’s making our community safer,” Gordon said.