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Drones help Utah firefighters battle wildfire

Drones helped firefighters find hotspots and at-risk structures during a 40-acre fire in Washington City


Santa Clara - Ivins Fire & Rescue/Facebook

By Bill Carey
FireRescue1 Staff

ST. GEORGE, Utah — On May 9, when a fire ravaged 40 acres of land along the Virgin River in Washington City, firefighters benefitted from a fleet of drones and advanced technology provided by the Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue. With the assistance of these drones, the firefighting team gained valuable insights into the situation, including the identification of hot spots.

The drones offered comprehensive visual coverage of the closest 100 structures at risk, capturing visible light imagery. Additionally, they utilized infrared technology to detect heat signatures, enabling firefighters to pinpoint the hottest areas of the fire accurately, St. George News reported.

“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,” Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue Division Chief Lance Haynie said.

Haynie has been assigned by the department to conduct a thorough examination and identify cutting-edge technologies that could offer a significant advantage to local firefighters when battling fires. Additionally, Haynie collaborates with other nearby departments to ensure the utilization of these technologies extends beyond western Washington County and the Old Dixie Highway 91 corridor.

Although Haynie mentioned that the logistics of this initiative are still in the early stages, it was successfully implemented during the Waters Edge Fire, which occurred on May 9. In the accompanying video and images provided to St. George News, firefighters were able to access real-time visuals of the fire’s location, including hidden hot spots that are not easily detectable to the naked eye.

According to Haynie, the technology not only provides valuable assistance to firefighters but also has the potential to rapidly inform the public about the magnitude of the fire’s impact. By combining multiple drone images, the technology generates an orthographic projection or visual map that offers an overhead view resembling satellite imagery.

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