Hiking Trails

Phoenix Fire will use drones for mountain rescues

PHOENIX – Starting in June, the Phoenix Fire Department will begin using drones for mountain rescues. The department says it will get three to four drones this year and certify a dozen people to start.

Captain Todd Keller said drones would be useful for all rescues, especially in the mountains where there are miles of open trails and people can get lost easily.

“A lot of times these hikers go off trail or don’t know where they are, there aren’t a lot of access points to South Mountain, so if we can get there, fire up that drone, find where that person is and forwards those coordinates…and then they can actually get to that person and help them,” he said.

Keller will be one of the first certified drone operators. He added that drones will also be able to deliver small items.

“If there is a situation where someone is out of water, we can deliver water to them. Or if a cell phone battery is dying, we can deliver a cell phone and continue that communication,” he said.

Drones will be especially useful during the hot summer months. Last year, the city passed a program to limit hiking on extremely hot days. Under the policy, the Piestewa and Camelback trails will be closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat warning. The program was launched after several Phoenix firefighters experienced heat-related issues due to back-to-back rescues.

Keller said the drones will also be used for bushfires to help them access remote areas and plan ahead. He said they will also be beneficial during commercial fires.

“It could be the difference between life and death if we’re in a big commercial structure fire, a restaurant fire, and we see from an elevated position that this roof is starting to come down, hey, we know that we have to get our firefighters and our women out of there,” he said.

The ministry said it wanted to make sure to maintain people’s privacy, especially with homes around the trails. Keller said the drones will not record video or take photos until they find the hiker and begin rescue operations.

“It was a pretty tough hike in January, I can’t imagine in the summer months, so I think if anything were to happen you would slip and get hurt, definitely hope someone can help out. meet relatively quickly,” said Jamie Jobe.

Camelback Wednesday hikers say they like the idea of ​​using drones.