Flame-finding pistols set off decades of blazing technology

Excerpt from the July 24, 1965, issue of Science News Letter

Firefighters pack fire-finding pistols — Firemen may soon be packing pistols to help them discover hidden fires. The pistols are new heat-seeking devices known as infrared detectors that sound a signal in the presence of a flame, ember or other abnormal heat source.… In actual tests, a fireman used one such device to find smoldering rags behind a huge metal wall cabinet. — Science News Letter, July 24, 1965


Though not always pistol-shaped, infrared gadgets have been widely taken up in recent decades and now regularly help firefighters spot clandestine flames. Infrared technology also allows responders to find survivors through thick smoke and detect heat from fires through walls and doors. Some of the gizmos can be helmet-mounted, creating a hands-free tool. Dropping prices and federal grants are making it easier for firefighters to access these potentially lifesaving devices.

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