June 1, 2024

Hillsboro Fire Department Thermal-Imaging Camera

Within six minutes of receiving a New Year’s Day alarm from Hillsboro Community Medical Center, trucks and firefighters from the Hillsboro Fire Department were on the scene.  A small blaze had apparently started spontaneously in the basement of the facility, just as patients, long-term care residents and staff were gathering for their first evening meal of 2006.

Fire Chief Ben Steketee was the first to arrive and soon found himself inside the boiler room staring straight at the problem.  Well, almost staring at it.  “All I could see was thick, black smoke,” Steketee said.

Additional firefighters arrived and entered the building armed with a fire hose and the thermal-imaging camera HFD had acquired the previous summer using funds gifted from the Hillsboro Community Foundation.

Unable to see the fire through the smoke, the firefighters used the thermal-imaging camera to pinpoint exactly where the fire was.  They were able to hit the hose stream right on the fire, even though they couldn’t see it with their eyes.  The fire was put out almost immediately.

As a result, the building suffered no structural damage from the accidental fire, and the residents and hospital patients were back in their rooms about three hours later.

The camera was the first gift to the Hillsboro-area community by the Hillsboro Community Foundation, created about two years previously.  The Foundation raised more than $10,000 toward the purchase of the camera for the fire department.

“Without that thermal-imaging camera, we don’t know if we would have a hospital,” said then-mayor Dolores Dalke.  “The foundation began its work of building for the future by providing a vehicle by which people can donate money or property to, and it will stay in our community.”