How Hal­i­fax Fire is bat­tling blazes in the 21st cen­tury

Tech­nol­ogy ‘faster than the he­li­copters’

StarMetro Halifax - - FRONT PAGE - Si­las Brown

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

CON­TRIB­UTED/HRM

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.

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