Coalinga, Calif. – Emergency and fire-response efforts in dangerous or inaccessible areas in westside Fresno County are about to get safer for first responders with the help of a new drone — funded by a $5,000 donation from oil and gas producer Aera Energy.
A drone demonstration event was held at Fresno County Fire Station 94, Harris Ranch on May 28.The drone was already put to good use by the district in the Haystack Fire on May 21, where it provided an aerial view to help firefighters prevent flames from spreading and causing additional damage. The drone will provide first responders with aerial views of hard to reach areas of rural Fresno county and for search and rescue operations or when responding to fire incidents at times when law-enforcement helicopters wouldn’t be called or are unavailable to assist. It will also serve as a helpful tool in preparation for what the state has warned will be a tough wildfire season.
“This new drone can be quickly deployed to give firefighters important information about the emergency scene from an aerial view,” said Fresno County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Mark A. Johnson. “Whether assisting in a rescue from a car over the side of the highway or responding to a fire in a difficult to reach area— the drone will increase the level of safety for our first responders and allows us to more efficiently provide the emergency services that are needed.” Johnson said the drone will also help with training such as swift-water rescue and urban search and rescue exercises.
“This drone represents the future of emergency response efforts,” said Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes. “First responders are using this technology all over the country already, and it’s something we needed in Fresno County. It’s an essential piece of equipment if it means it can make things safer for our first responders, who put their lives on the line for us every day.”
This isn’t Aera’s first time supporting the fire protection district. In 2019, Aera donated $5,000 to fund the purchase of four quick-cut saws for use for such efforts as vehicle extrication, and rescues from small spaces such as collapsed concrete and steel structures after an earthquake.
“This drone is so much more than just an eye in the sky for first responders,” said Ed Patterson, manager of operations for Aera Energy. “We believe that our safety is our neighbors’ safety and this drone helps provide that to the more than 200,000 people spread out over the more than 2,600 square miles that make up the fire district. By working together, we can protect the health and safety of our communities in Fresno County this fire season, and for years to come.”