In the nick of time for the fire season, local fire departments have welcomed a new ally to their ranks: high-tech drones. When a blaze devoured 40 acres of land by the Virgin River in Washington City, Utah on May 9, Firefighters had a crystal clear understanding of the fire's hot spots. This invaluable insight came from a suite of Drone Technology provided by Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue.
The deployed drones offered a comprehensive visual light overview of the nearest 100 threatened structures and infrared imagery, revealing the fire's hottest areas.
“As far as I'm told, we are the only agency in Utah doing this, but I know we are the only in Southern Utah,” stated Division Chief Lance Haynie of Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue.
Haynie's role within the department involves identifying cutting-edge technologies that might give local firefighters a strategic advantage over fires. He then collaborates with other local departments to extend this tech utilization beyond western Washington County and the Old Dixie Highway 91 corridor.
Although the execution of this task is still in its infancy, the technology was reportedly effectively used during the May 9 Waters Edge Fire. Real-time images of the fire's location and concealed hot spots were provided to firefighters, as evidenced by the video and images shared with St. George News.
But the department doesn't just use this technology for fires—it also comes in handy for ice. Drone monitoring of snow runoff in nearby mountains helped local officials anticipate the Santa Clara River's flood stage in March.
According to Haynie, the technology not only empowers firefighters but also serves as a swift public information tool regarding fire damage extent. The drones can create an orthographic projection or visual map of the damage, stitching together multiple images to provide an overhead satellite-like view.
The department already generated such a view of the recent fire and made it public on its website.
Haynie emphasized, “We should be able to produce near real-time orthography and rapidly release the information.”
Photos courtesy of Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue.
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