Pattonville Fire Protection District using drones to help fight fires

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BRIDGETON, MO (KTVI) - For first responders, the best tool in their belt to help fight fires might be up in the air.

“In this particular case, we have an issue with fire in an attic area of what looks like a garage or front living room,” says Matt Lavanchy, Assistant Chief Pattonville Fire District. “We have a fire issue with the side of this house, side B.”

On Friday morning, firefighters from the Pattonville Fire Protection District were called to this Bridgeton blaze off Avery around 2:30 a.m.

It marked the first time they were able to use their new unmanned aerial vehicle to give them a bird's eye view and reduce the risk of an educated guess.

“With this technology, we're not guessing anymore,” says Lavanchy. “We know where the seed of the fire is, we know where the fire is progressing too, and we know where the fire is going to go. We see in these videos and these pictures where it's safe to put a firefighter.'

Pattonville bought two UAVs earlier this year and have three people trained to use them. At the scene of this Bridgeton fire, all anyone could see from the ground was a big, black cloud of smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the air.

“But with this technology we're able to see through the obstruction and see what the true issue and what the true point is where we need to make our attack,” says Lavanchy.

The new gear is already being called a game changer.

“Something can look perfectly normal to the human eye, but with thermal imaging it can show you that there's a monster behind the room or a wall or anywhere else,” says Lavanchy.

While the debate on drones continues, firefighters already implementing unmanned aerial vehicles will tell you, they're here to stay and help.

“We use it for life safety,” says Lavanchy. “Whether it's a firefighter or a civilian, that's what the use is for.”