WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — A fire involving petroleum products poses grave danger to the people assigned to put it out.
Managing that risk means eliminating uncertainties, answering as many questions as possible, and getting a thorough picture of the problem.
Thursday night, small fire at an oil well site gave firefighters the chance to test a new capacity for such scenarios – a drone, paid for by the very industry whose fire they were addressing.
A crew from Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue gathered important imagery from its new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to pinpoint the fire’s origin and confirm it was extinguished.
It was the inaugural flight for the drone and its pilot.
The incident occurred at a site near the intersection of Weld County Roads 66 and 27, about three miles east of Windsor.
“There are countless opportunities for the use of UAV’s,” the department posted on its Facebook page, “and last night WSFR’s UAV made its inaugural flight on an emergency scene. The UAV was used to evaluate the situation from a safe perspective while providing feedback to incident commanders regarding the effectiveness of the operational plan.”
Through a grant, local oil and gas companies paid for the drone and the cost of training and licensing its pilots, the department stated.
The drone relayed a high-definition video image from above the site. It also provided thermal imaging to fire crews needing to observe the fire’s heat signature before they and site operators could safely re-enter the area.
Metro Denver departments are welcoming the added perspective provided by drones at house, apartment and warehouse fires. The view from above is sometimes necessary before putting personnel on rooftops.
But drones are also being applied to underground rescues, searches in the backcountry and reservoirs for missing persons, and larger incidents, such as a train wreck, as CBS4 discovered recently.