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.

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)

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.

“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.

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