How trip inside a volcano helped SF man create new firefighting technology

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — New cutting-edge technology to help firefighters and first responders was developed right here in the Bay Area.

It’s called “C-Thru” and it allows firefighters to see through thick smoke when battling fire — and a man from San Francisco came up with the idea.

The Menlo Park Fire Department has tried the technology and say it’s a game changer.

During testing, this technology shaved off minutes of their response time, and that could be the difference between life and death.

Behind the technology — a trip inside a volcano.

“While we were inside this active volcano, our team of 60 folks as we were trying to navigate inside the volcano couldn’t see where we were going and it presented a hazard,” said the man behind the technology, Sam Crossman.

Inside that smoke-filled volcano nearly five years ago, Crossman realized a need to restore vision in high stress, hazardous conditions, not just for volcano explorers but also for firefighters, especially after his own scare last year at his Russian Hill home.

“The hallway was filled with smoke and there were four ladder trucks outside, four ladders on the outside of our structure here with first responders coming through these smoke filled conditions, trying to find us to help us evacuate safely,” he said.

Crossman said he saw the tools firefighters were using and was reminded how the technology hadn’t changed in decades.

That’s when “C-Thru” was born.

“I pulled together this team of avengers and we came from very different backgrounds,” Crossman said. “We wanted to pull our collective skills to start thinking about how to solve the problem of seeing through smoke in a new way.”

Essentially C-Thru combines four technologies, including a firefighter mask, a thermal camera, augmented reality and a mini computer.

Many prototypes and designs later, Crossman and his team left it to the pro’s, the Menlo Park Fire District, to test out last year.

Crossman and his team, Qwake Tech, are still working on software for C-Thru and hope to have it on the market in the next 12 to 18 months.

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