Eyes in the skies: emergency management and fire agencies utilize drones in Fairbury

Emergency Management and fire crews in Saline and Jefferson counties are anticipating an active weekend with the dry and warm weather conditions lately.

“I looked a little bit ago and we were about 12 to 13 percent humidity with about 62 degrees. Those kind of conditions can create explosive fire drills if a fire were to happen to break out,” said Judd Stewart, assistant Fire Chief at Fairbury Rural Fire Department.

So, they came prepared with these- drones, with 2 special cameras– one with a zoom and one that can capture thermal images, providing an angle to emergency response that is well needed.

“It can take weather extremes, temperature extremes, we can use it on a light rain, it can handle a heavier payload, we can put an attachment on it that will take a rope out to somebody and drop a rope or a life vest off,” said John McKee, of Jefferson and Saline County Emergency Management.

In fact, the drones have already been in operation for about a year.

“The fire that we had last Friday was a situation where the staging post was, we couldn’t see the entire fire ground due to rugged terrain, so i requested that the emergency management bring out the drones so they can do a fly over for us…from there, we could see well over a quarter mile away where we had hotspots and we were able to direct our crews to those areas,” said Stewart.

“And on a day like this coming up, 40 mph winds that they’re talking on Thursday. If there’s any embers in there, a tree burning up high, that’s going to float across the grass and start a fire,” said McKee.

“To get a tool like this to be able to get up and get quick eyes on it without the ability to have your feet on the ground or drive a vehicle around a fire, this is a tremendous tool for us,” said Stewart.

With a limited number of volunteer firefighters available, it can take a range of activities from law enforcement, to search and rescue to spotting hot spots in fires.

Categories: Jefferson