From now on when the Bedford Fire Department gets called to help with a rescue, the first piece of equipment they send may arrive by air.
The department has purchased its very first drone. The tool gives firefighters an aerial view and allows them to quickly respond in locations that may be hard to access in a large truck.
“This can go places where we can not go,” explained Bedford Fire Department First Lieutenant, Matt Scott. “It’s going to take us several minutes up to hours to get to a particular location, where this can be there in a couple of minutes.”
The drone was put into service last Wednesday. In less than seven days, it has already been used twice to search for people on rugged terrain.
Last weekend it was dispatched to the James River to look for missing boaters. On Tuesday the drone flew above the Blue Ridge Mountains to help the Montvale Fire Department find a missing hiker.
The hiker was lost and used her cell phone to call 911. As rescue teams hiked in on the ground, firefighters put their drone in the air and flew to what they believed was the hiker’s location.
On a 911 recording, a dispatcher could be heard telling the hiker “you’re going to hear a buzzing noise, like a bunch of bees.”
“I hear that and it’s to my right,” explained the distressed hiker, who helped dispatchers and first responders plot her location.
“We were above her within two to three minutes, where when they went in it took them about a half hour to hike in,” said Scott.
Bedford firefighters believe the drone will be helpful in a variety of situations. If they ever have to respond to something like a brush fire or hazardous chemical leak, the aerial camera will give them a safe way to asses the situation.
“We’re planning to use it as much as we can,” said Scott. “It’s going to save us a lot of time and effort.”
The drone cost about $2,400. The department paid for it with funding they get from the state government to buy firefighting equipment.
Bedford’s fire department is one of the first in the state to use a drone and they’ve already started getting calls from other agencies who are interested in buying one of their own.