Drone gives North Collier County firefighters, rescue services tactical advantage

Reporter: Rich Kolko Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

In an emergency, seconds count. During a fire, choosing the right door to enter or pinpointing where someone is trapped can be a deadly guessing game.

In response to emergency situations, the first tool of its kind in Southwest Florida is helping to save lives.

When North Collier County firefighters head out on a call, they respond with a $5,000 drone packed in the chief’s truck.

“As soon as we get dispatched, the drone pilot and the drone will arrive on scene,” said Chandler Craft, a drone pilot for North Collier County Fire Control and Rescue District. “They will launch.”

It’s a launch that gives firefighters a technological edge. The high-tech drone has an infrared camera and starts sending data immediately.

“Instead of doing a rule-out method — the traditional method of it’s not here, it’s not here — we can tell them this is exactly this is where the fire is,” Craft said.

That’s one of many ways the drone helps. Think of it as an extra set of eyes in the sky, and Craft puts it through its paces.

“It revolutionizes how we go about things from tactics to planning to everything,” Craft said.

When we met with the district, it set a training fire.

“The drone is right outside of the fire. The temp is 200,” Craft said. “We could immediately tell the crews where the fire is.”

A radio call is made, and firefighters can respond quicker by knowing exactly where to go.

“What would take 10 people, this takes one person to do and utilize,” Craft said.

North Collier County Fire Control and Rescue District has one drone currently, but it’s going to be adding more, so they can save lives and save time. They use the drone for search and rescue as well.

“It’s safety for our firefighters,” said Heather Mazurkiewicz, public information officer with North Collier County Fire Rescue. “It’s safety for our residents. We’re able to suppress the fires quicker.”

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