PUEBLO, Colo. (CBS4) – Firefighting officials from as far away as California and Georgia converged on southern Colorado this week to take part in a yearly drone training exercise. Firefighters and law enforcement are using the unmanned aircraft more often, and a test course in Pueblo provides them with a better practice area to operate them in.

“The more we can use (a drone) to do the work rather than send a first responder in to harm’s way, we’re all about that,” Matt Sloane, CEO of Skyfire, told CBS News.

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Skyfire trains hundreds of emergency personnel on how to use drones in disasters at the practice area. One of the training procedures involves flying over a drone over real train cars that have been set on fire.

(credit: CBS)

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Sloane says drones are the “best tool we’ve gotten since the fire hose.” They often allow crews to get a better look at the kind of emergency they’re dealing with. When Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire in April, Paris police flew a drone over the scene to check for hotspots.

(credit: CBS)

Some of the drones used by firefighters have protective carbon fiber spheres which give them the ability to fly into tight spaces and bounce off walls. Other have a thermal cameras that can see through flames and smoke.

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“I think next we’re going to start to see gas detection sensors, radiation detectors. We’re really just scratching the surface here,” said Sloane.