FLIR K2 Thermal Imaging Camera for Firefighters 

 July 7, 2017

By  Randy Angwin

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Last updated on September 17, 2022

FLIR Systems Inc. is the king of perception and awareness using thermal imaging technology. They design devices that cover a wide variety of applications from building inspections to hunting, firefighting, rescue missions, and many others. 

Today, we look at a very special thermal imaging camera aimed at firefighters; the FLIR K2. 

Design Features

FLIR K2 Thermal Imaging Camera with 160 × 120 IR Resolution and MSX

Built to withstand flames, this device can operate in temperature as high as 5000F for up to three minutes. 

Its thermal sensor and tough case blend together to make a rugged product that can manage a 2-meter drop thanks to the PPSU rubber aluminum and the flame resistant magnesium alloy housing. It boasts an IP67 waterproof rating so no worries if your hose turns on it. The FLIR K2 is ultralight, compact, and effortless to attach to SCBA gear. 

The device is ready when you are as operation is all handled by a single large button. Even with heavy gloves, you can turn on the camera and scan through smoke and other obscurants easily.  

It features a bright LCD that features intuitive features. It is hassle-free to operate, meaning you will never lose track of your job. 

Thermal Imaging Technology

FLIR K2 Thermal Imaging Camera with 160 × 120 IR Resolution and MSX

The FLIR K2 is based on FLIR’s Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging (MSX). It is everything to this camera since it puts together a visual and a thermal image to highlight important details. This feature allows you to read labels and numbers on the things you are looking at quickly which can help save lives. 

For example, if you were focusing the camera on a tank, you can tell it has something in it, but that’s not the only reading you get with this camera, it enables you to read the label which can determine if the tank is carrying flammable material or id the owner is just storing extra containers of water. 

The built-in digital camera creates high resolution 640 x 480p images while the uncooled micro bolometer sensor produces crisp 320 x 240p images. You will view the combined thermal images on the 3-inch color LCD. 

Operation Modes

This thermal imager provides seven operation modes that are all critically important in their own way. It is a thoughtful feature, but we wish there's a way of changing the image settings in the field without plugging the device into a PC and accessing the mode using FLIR software. 

1. Basic Mode    

Basic Mode

As the name suggests, the camera is in its default setting which shows multiple situations on the screen. It is used during the initial stages as you start to attack a fire. This mode presents different heat signatures that allows you to engage in control of the fire and rescue at the same time. 

It automatically toggles between the high and low temperatures to maintain an optimal image for the problem at hand. At the same time, the camera will also show a safe, consistent, and correct representation of the fire image.

Its high sensitivity range is from -4° to 302°F while the low sensitivity range is between +32° to 932·F. Its colorization of heat is usually between +302° to +932°F.

2. Black and White Fire Fighting Mode

Black and White Fire Fighting Mode

This mode is based on the basic setting only that it is in black and white. If you do not want to see a color picture, then this mode is ideal for your situation.

3. Fire Mode

Fire Mode

This mode has a higher temperature starting point than the basic mode. It is useful when the background temperature is also high in situations where there are multiple fires. It will alternate between the low and high sensitivity temperatures while maintaining an optimal fire image. 

This mode colorizes heat in temps between 482° to 932°F. The high sensitivity range is from -4° to +302°F and the low sensitivity range is from 32° to 932°F.

4. Search and Rescue Mode

Search and Rescue Mode

This mode’s sole purpose is to find trapped individuals in a fire scene. As such, it works to maintain highly contrasted thermal images that make it easy to distinguish between buildings, the fire, landscape, a car, and other things that are in the same environment as the persons who have been trapped. 

It operates in a high sensitivity range only between -4° to +302°F, and the colorization of heat is between 212° to 302° F. 

5. Heat Detection Mode

Heat Detection Mode

This mode is vital for identifying hidden spots during overhaul. You will want to know if you have extinguished the fire fully, that’s why finding the hot spots is essential. It also comes in handy during search and rescue since you will be able to tell if you have found everyone in an accident or open landscape. 

The heat detection mode also operates in high sensitivity range only with heat colorization being at 20% that of the highest temperature in the scene.

6. Cold Detection Mode

Cold Detection Mode

This mode finds the airflow which allow firefighters to vent a fire to prevent backdraft and flashovers. It operates similarly as that of the heat detection mode in high sensitivity range only. 

7. Building Analysis Mode

Building Analysis Mode

For building inspectors, this is the mode you will use to analyze a structure. It allows you to find moisture intrusions, insulation leaks, and other defects that affect the comfort of a home. The camera displays different temperatures in various colors. White represents the hottest areas while black, purple, and blue show the coldest regions. Yellow, red, and orange indicate midrange temperatures.

FLIR K2 battery Life

This thermal imager runs using two rechargeable batteries. It comes with a USB cable to recharge the unit. The cells can also be recharged outside the device using a dedicated charger. The running time is around 4 hours and the charge time is 2 ½ hours to 90% charge. It has an automatic sleep and shutdown function which helps to prolong the battery life. 

FLIR K2 Thermal Imaging Camera with 160 × 120 IR Resolution and MSX


  • It has a 2-5-10 FLIR warranty
  • Flame and impact resistant housing 
  • Compact and lightweight 
  • Three operating buttons and one large ON button
  • Seven modes for firefighting, search & rescue, and building inspections
  • 47° x 35° degrees field of view
  • MSX imaging technology


  • It is a bit difficult to access the battery door 

FLIR K2 Specifications:

  • 160 × 120-pixel IR Resolution
  • 47° × 35° Field of view
  • MSX image overlay
  • 3" LCD backlit screen
  • Image frequency 9 Hz
  • Start-up time < 30 sec. (IR-image, no GUI)
  • Start-up time from sleep mode < 10 sec.
  • Built-in digital camera 640 × 480 pixels
  • Digital camera, FOV 73° × 61°, adapts to the IR lens
  • Sensitivity Minimum 10 lux
  • Display 3 in. LCD, 320 × 240 pixels, backlit
  • Image modes – switchable using FLIR Tools software TI Basic fire-fighting mode (default)Black-and-white fire-fighting modeFire modeSearch-and-rescue modeHeat detection modeCold detection modeBuilding analysis mode
  • Designed to meet NFPA 1801 specification Vibration, impact acceleration resistance, corrosion,viewing surface abrasion, heat resistance, heat and flame,product label durability
  • Operating temperature range –20°C to +55°C (–4°F to +131°F)+85°C (+185°F): 15 minutes+150°C (+302°F): 10 minutes+260°C (+500°F): 3 minutes
  • Measures temperatures from -20 °C (-4 °F) to 500 °C (932 °F)
  • Can Survive 6ft Drop onto Concrete
  • IP67 Water Resistant
  • FLIR’s Leading 2-5-10 Warranty
  • Comes with 2 lithium rechargeable batteries and Charger
  • Prime Eligible


The FLIR K2 is every firefighter’s tool for accessing smoky buildings, safe navigation, rescuing victims and finding out the best strategy to approach a fire as fast as possible. With six dedicated firefighting modes, it’s all about saving lives and working smart. The rugged design, MSX imaging, and intuitive controls more than justify it a top pick to be in the hands of a firefighter.

About the author 

Randy Angwin

Randy Angwin holds a master of science degree from University of Florida. He is an expert in infrared and night vision technology. His knowledge helps us staying on top of the latest trends in the thermal industry. When not working, Randy likes to hunt and spend time with his two German shepherds.

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