Muskegon Heights firefighter helmet cameras aid in training and transparency

Posted at 10:14 PM, Feb 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-02 22:15:10-05

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich.-- It's a dangerous, high pressure job, and one West Michigan fire department is giving people a first-person view of what it takes to be a firefighter. Crews in Muskegon Heights bought their own helmet cameras to use during training and fire calls and they're making the videos public.

The videos have been viewed thousands of times online, even getting picked up by a national firefighter website.

They run into the direction of danger, towards raging flames and into the unknown.

"We used them for training to critique what we were doing at fire and how we can be more effective and it kind of spread from there," said Muskegon Heights Fire Chief Christoper Dean.

Chief Dean purchased his first helmet camera about three years ago. The footage is used mostly for training.

"When we come back and view these videos, we look at how we performed, what we did right, what we could've done different," Dean said. "For myself, as a fire investigator for many years it gives me an angle of how the fire was when the first unit got on scene and then I can take it back and see where the fire was, how it spread and what what we did to fight the fire."

Dean put the videos online and got thousands of views. The videos also caught the eye of Firefighter Nation, a popular website.

"It's kind of a big deal when a large national outlet picks up what you're doing," said Dean. "It's picking up all over the country and more and more outlets are using it for media purposes and just to show what firefighters are doing in their real-life everyday job."

The firefighters in Muskegon Heights, who purchased the cameras with their own money, say it's not only an investment in their jobs, but in the community they serve.

"It's an investment in our profession and the training aspect of it," said Dean. "Most people who I know who have these cameras utilize the video to help in training. It's not just to catch the adventure of a call. We're using the cameras to enhance our day to day skills as firefighters."

Those camera cost about $300 each. The videos are edited before being posted online to protect the identities of anyone involved.