Early Fire Detection by Thermography

In the industry there is not only the challenge of reaching the goals of production and quality of the products, but there is also the priority of keeping the facilities, equipment and especially the personnel safe. Disasters such as explosions, leaks of toxic components and fires usually have their origin in something as common as the same materials and equipment that are handled in our facilities.

In the case of fires, there are endless causes that unleash them. Just to list some we have the magnifying glass effect, chemical reactions produced by the heat of the sun or produced by the same material, human negligence, electrical and mechanical equipment, and unusually sometimes the same nature, either the wind or the local fauna, they cause that spark or bring with them an ember that unleashes the devastating reaction of the fire.

The top 10 causes of industrial fires. Source: Safestart Mexico

Whatever its cause, the fire originates from a hot spot. The key to stopping them is detecting them at their earliest stage, when the damage and difficulty of extinguishing them is minimal.

The detection of hot spots will always be earlier than the detection of smoke or flame. In our video (from minute 16:00 to 18:00) we can see how the thermal imaging camera takes only 12 seconds to detect the hot spot, the smoke is detected after 1 minute and 19 seconds and the CCTV camera detects the flame after 1 minute 45 seconds.

Having explained the previous principle we can understand why the thermal imager becomes relevant for fire fighting systems. The detection capacity ranges from 100mK (0.1 ° C) to 30mK (0.03 ° C), which to get an idea, is sufficient capacity to detect for 30 seconds the imprint of a hand that rested for half a second on a desk. Amazing, right?

And how are they used? According to the plan of the area to be monitored, the designation of the location of the camera is made, seeking to make the most of the visual field offered by the camera. It is common for us to come across a situation in which one camera is not sufficient due to the level of detail required or due to the blind spots obtained by placing the camera in a certain position.

The size of the area to be monitored does not always determine the number of cameras to use. On the left side, we have a warehouse measuring 80×40 meters while the one on the right is 200×100 meters. The former requires a more detailed level of monitoring, including all aisles, while for the latter, the top and side surface of the bales is sufficient.


Although within early fire detection systems the thermal imaging camera is the co-protagonist, it also needs the other elements of the system to alert the surveillance body or to automatically activate the deluge valves to extinguish the fire. The other co-star is the software, more specifically the bcbFireScan, which is responsible for receiving the signal from the cameras and orchestrating all the other elements, such as pan-tilt platforms, discrete signal modules, screens, boards, etc. The bcbFireScan is in charge of executing the round mode, an inspection routine in which the pan-tilt platforms allow the cameras to be pointed at the different quadrants of the monitored area. In addition, thanks to its processing algorithms, the bcbFireScan is capable of detecting false alarms caused by forklifts constantly circulating through warehouses.

Every investment is important and its approval is subject to an adequate return on investment. While it is true that by preventing a fire (and thereby avoiding damage to property, equipment, personnel, production chain and fines) the system would be more than paid, we do not have to wait for that to happen to see the purchase amortized. This happens because by having such a system, the insurance makes a significant reduction in the cost of the policy, thus allowing a more quantifiable ROI calculation.


The NFPA, the highest authority on fire systems, recognizes the usefulness and importance of thermographic systems in NFPA 072, chapter 17, section 8 where the use of fire detection by radiant energy sensors, that is, cameras, is mentioned. thermographic. In addition, NFPA 1801 chapters 6 and 7 describe the technical characteristics that must be covered for its manufacture and approval.

For more information or specific queries, do not hesitate to write to our specialist engineers in the field:

MEXICO: Francisco Escobar franciscoescobar@bcbmex.com

SPAIN: Mariel Gallardo marielgallardo@bcbmex.com