Firefighters in Victoria are hoping a new tool in their arsenal will help them get a different perspective when it comes to extinguishing flames.
The department is the latest first responder agency to add UAVs, more commonly known as “drones” into the mix.
Deputy Chief Dan Atkinson says the department has now trained four pilots on the devices.
“The pilots are all members of the Victoria fire department but they are not suppression firefighters, our boots on the ground worker guys, we wanted to keep them operational.”
He says UAVs offer several advantages like thermal imaging and surveying hot spots.
“The data or the information that can be gathered quickly, efficiently and safely without putting personnel in harm’s way, just can’t be overstated.”
The fire department now has three of the UAVs through in its Emergency Management Division.
Emergency Program Coordinator Tanya Patterson says the drones were originally intended with disaster damage assessment, critical infrastructure investigation, and search and rescue in mind.
Patterson says they can be outfitted with a variety of payloads, including chemical sensors and infrared cameras, and even used to drop off emergency equipment like AEDs in a disaster area.
The drones have also been used at least once for city engineering purposes – in that case, to photograph construction on Victoria’s new bike lane network.
So is there a role for the devices closer to home?
Jonathan Gormick with Vancouver Fire says drones have been on the department’s radar but there are no plans to pick any up just yet.
“I don’t think it really fits our current service model. We service a very, very dense city. We don’t have too many outlying areas and there’s not many areas that we can’t get visual access to especially considering the number of aerial devices we have access too.”
Gormick says there are other hurdles like cost and training but says if drones are needed in the future, the department will give it another look.
Drones are becoming an increasingly popular tool for emergency response.
The RCMP has maintained the devices for some time now, and late last year the province signed off on a pilot project for BC Search and Rescue teams to begin testing them on calls.