Colo. FD launches new drone, special operations unit

Colorado Springs firefighters now have a 24-hour drone service to assist with fireground operations and search and rescue

By O'Dell Isaac
The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Beginning Wednesday, the Colorado Springs Fire Department will implement a new unit that officials say will allow the department to view emergencies from the sky, keep fire crews safer, and increase community support.

The Special Operations Unit, a first for CSFD, will consist of three-person teams — one captain and two lieutenants — working across three eight-hour shifts, allowing the position to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a Monday news release from the department.

"We're really excited about being able to have this technology available 24/7," said CSFD Chief Randy Royal. "We know that it's going to be useful in both detecting and fighting wildland fires and will give us valuable information on those fires along with rescues and structures fires. We believe it's going to bring improved capabilities in being able to help us keep the public safe."

The new unit will give CSFD round-the-clock drone capability, allowing firefighters to have a comprehensive view of an emergency scene during wildland fires, high-angle rescues, smoke investigations, swift water rescue operations, and searches for missing hikers or climbers.

Seeing an incident from the sky will help fire crews make quick decisions on approach and tactics, which should make for quicker reaction times, according to CSFD spokeswoman Ashley Franco.

"(Special Operations) will be especially crucial during wildfire and smoke investigations," Franco said. "It gives us coordinates to where a fire could be located, which would help us to deploy crews quicker and get the fire out faster. It also has infrared capabilities to help show hotspots."

Special Operations personnel will also be trained as "incident safety officers" who will identify and help mitigate potential hazards at or near an emergency scene, officials said. Two CSFD companies are already staffed with safety officers, but the addition of the new unit will allow the department to deploy safety personnel to multiple scenes if necessary.

A health and wellness portion of the new Special Operations Unit is currently in development, the release stated.

"The safety of our firefighters, along with their overall health and wellness, both physically and mentally is our number one priority," said Deputy Chief of Operations, Jayme McConnellogue. "The addition of the special operations unit will enhance our capability to serve the public in their time of need by ensuring strong and reliant firefighters that are ready to perform in inherently dangerous situations."

(c)2023 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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