McClure house fire saw Victoria firefighters use drone for first time in live situation

Aerial device feeds intel to crews to help formulate firefighting action plans

A devastating house fire Monday forced a McClure Street family and their tenant to quickly contemplate their next move, with most of their possessions destroyed.

While the event was disastrous on a human level, from a technology standpoint it allowed the Victoria Fire Department to successfully test out its newest piece of equipment, a drone designed to give firefighters a closer initial look at the characteristics of a fire.

READ: Large fire destroys home on McClure Street in Victoria

“What was exciting about Monday was this was the first time we put the drone to use at a live emergency situation,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Atkinson.

The drone, also referred to as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) cost between $20,000 and $25,000 and was introduced last year. It carries a 4K standard video camera and a thermal imaging camera. It required government certification and extensive training before it was used.

“It went really well,” Atkinson said. “On every call there are lessons to be learned, but the UAV really demonstrated its ability to assess the scene.”

The drone provides firefighters with additional intel about the blaze, which enables them to allocate resources accordingly.

“When we roll up to scene we rely on our eyes – we do a size up, and formulate an incident action plan,” Atkinson said, adding that in future, drones may be dispatched to the scene ahead of fire crews and feed information back to the first responders en route.

“This kind of technology provides us with a higher level of knowledge,” he explained. “It’s not only used for fires.”

UAVs are an effective tool in search and rescue operations, air sampling, aerial photography and crime scene reconstruction.

Increasingly, drone technology is becoming standard practice on Vancouver Island. Langford Fire and Rescue used drones to locate missing hikers, and Saanich police employs them to map vehicle crash scenes.

“It is limitless,” Atkinson said.

anna.james@vicnews.com

droneVictoria Fire Department

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Information provided by drone technology helped firefighters assess the blaze on McClure Street on March 19. Ragnar Haagen/BLACK PRESS

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