​Privacy questioned as firefighters embrace helmet cameras

WHEATON, Md. -- Wheaton Maryland Rescue Squad fire captains Adam St. John and Brett Russell call helmet-mounted cameras invaluable.

"I think it makes anybody that wears them a better firefighter," said St. John.

Video from St. John's helmet shows a house fire just days before Christmas in which Russell calls for help after falling through a floor.

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"I looked down and I saw this glow of orange of the fire below me and my initial thought was, one, I'm in big trouble and two, I was convinced I was going to the burn center," said Russell.

With the house full of smoke, the video shows how hard it was to spot him, but the Christmas lights on Russell's decorated helmet pierced the darkness.

The video of Russell's rescue is now a teaching tool.

"Every time I watch it I can think about the timeline -- what I could have done differently to be able to help him find me faster than he did," said Russell.

The cameras are becoming increasingly popular -- more than 300,000 clips have been posted to YouTube. But many fire departments have concerns about privacy and liability.

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The helmet camera video of the response to the 2013 crash of Asiana Flight 214 showed a survivor was accidentally run over. The San Francisco fire chief later reminded staff that all cameras are banned without prior approval.

Jim Brinkley is with the International Association of Fire Fighters. The union does not support the use of helmet cameras.

Brinkley says national standards for the use of cameras are in development but adds "that's a long process."

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"We're going into people's homes, we're videoing their personal belongings, we're videoing their entry and exit points," said Brinkley. "All of those things puts the public at risk. We don't want to compromise that trust."