How Halifax Fire is battling blazes in the 21st century
Technology ‘faster than the helicopters’
When the Cole Harbour wild- fires erupted on Sunday, Hali- f fax Fire put to use a new piece of technology to aid in the fight.
Deputy chief Roy Hollett says the department used drones on Sunday to track the fire’s speed and direction, giv- ing a better idea of where to deploy resources and what areas may need to be evacuated, something that can be difficult to discern from the ground.
“It was just a coincidence that the division commander wwho was on duty is one of our lead drone pilots and when the fire started they did bring out the drones to get an aerial view because what we see from the ground is very limited,” Hollett said.
“We sent the drones to get a better idea of where the fire was going based on the wind, the size of it, and it was able to actually give us an idea of where to place our resources. We knew it was heading toward Astral Drive and now we had a picture of it moving toward a different area.”
Hollett added that in the past, because of the limited visibility due to the smoke and the wind, firefighters could only guess which way the fire is mov- ing.
“There’s lots of smoke, we kknow there’s a fire, we know the general direction, but the brush can be pretty thick and trying to make your way through it safely and getting back can be an issue ... So, in the past, we wouldn’t have had that (aerial view). It would have been our best guess where it was moving.”
In 2016 Halifax Fire spent just under $45,000 on two drones, equipped with thermal cameras and a gimbal to keep the picture steady.
The Cole Harbour fire is only the second time they’ve been used, Hollett said, having previously also been deployed on a hazardous materials call.
Hollett says that the drones’ portability and ability to provide real-time pictures make them a useful asset.
In the past, when responding to wildfires, the department had to wait for Department of Natural Resources helicopters to arrive before they could see the fire from the air. of
The view of the Cole Harbour fire on June 10, 2018 from a Halifax Fire drone. This operation was only the second time the drones have been used by the fire service.