Orange County Fire Rescue: Drone technology delivers 'beyond expectations'

Thermal imaging key in first live scene, provides eye in the sky

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Fire Rescue’s drone technology, used for the first time since the department
invested in the high-tech aerial gadgets, proved to be a powerful new asset during a November warehouse fire, according to Chief Otto Drozd.

The drone video, obtained exclusively by News 6, shows aerial shots of a six-unit warehouse fire that broke out at 2275 N. Semoran Boulevard on Nov. 2.

Drozd, a strong proponent of the cutting-edge technology, told News 6 that the drone delivered “beyond what we thought it would.”

“This was a 30-by-350, so we caught (the fire) in the very first portion of it without putting anyone on the roof, without opening too much of the building,” Drozd said. “And we were able to do that because of the drone.”

News 6 obtained 911 calls that suggest the fire started at about 9:20 a.m.

By 9:30 a.m., Drozd said fire rescue teams had already isolated the hot points because of the infrared video intelligence provided by the drone camera.

“You can see how the white portions go all the way to the darker portions of the building, so that gives us an idea of where we can make a stop on the fire," Drozd said.

Drozd said the department plans to purchase additional drones, possibly four, as well as a system that will provide 3D video enhancement.

“When the incident commander gets there, he does an assessment of the scene," Drozd said. "The advantage of the drone is now you have an eye in the sky that gives you 360 and a top view of the building, with the added advantage of thermal imaging and infrared."

Drozd told News 6 the system allows first responders to pinpoint exactly where the fire is and where to concentrate resources.

“When we talk about the forward progress of a fire, time equals destruction. The quicker that we can evaluate what is happening on scene and position our people at the right place, the more property and  lives we’re going to be able to save as a result," Drozd said.

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