In the United States, for example, fire departments respond to about 1.6 million fire calls per year, and domestic house fires make up the majority of them (3000 deaths occurring each year in house fires).
The recent generation of infrared (IR) bolometer detectors, commercially available for imaging in the IR spectrum in the range of 7–14 µm, are uncooled (i.e., they operate without liquid nitrogen), thus they are lighter in weight and have reached high density and resolution array (680×480 pixels; pixel size down to 25 µm). Also, the cost of such devices is no longer so high, considering their brilliant performance. Such devices allow passive or active clear vision (i.e., with laser IR illumination) through smoke or fog since IR electromagnetic radiation is scattered just slightly by fog drops or smoke particles. However, visible radiation is strongly affected by scattering, and vision can be completely impaired in such situations. Many fire departments use IR cameras based on a bolometer for exploring fire scenes in order to have clearer vision and to allow the rescue of human lives, or to operate safely in such a hostile environment. As explained above, while imaging through smoke is possible in the range of 7–14 µm, flames can completely blind the detector. In fact, electromagnetic radiation emitted by flames can severely saturate the detector, occluding the scene behind them.
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