Drone team aids in Hawthorne brush fire

Published: May. 28, 2019 at 5:30 PM EDT
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Fire crews from the Department of Forestry, Alachua County Fire Rescue, and Melrose Volunteer Fire Department spent the day battling a brush fire in Hawthorne.

Alachua County Fire Rescue responded to the bush fire just before 8 Tuesday morning. They were able to contain the fire within just a few hours, all thanks to a new aerial view.

About five years ago, Alachua County Fire Rescue created what's called the Unmanned Aerial Systems program, to help crews when responding to fires.

Within the past year, the UAS team has grown and is now responding directly to fire calls.

"There was a lot of resistance at first to using drones but as soon as any of the personnel out in the field see it they go, that's amazing,” said Program Co-founder, Scott Fielding.

The team can see an aerial view of exactly where the fire is, they can map it out, and calculate how many acres the fire is.

"It's a total game changer as far as that goes,” he said.

The drone especially came in handy Tuesday as the team responded to a brush fire in Hawthorne.

"As command we want to be able to have the best possible scene, the whole picture of what we have going on and before the drone team we could only see what our guys and girls on the ground could see,” District Chief with Alachua County Fire Rescue, Misty Woods said.

The drone was able to quickly identify hot spots and direct the plow truck to safely contain the fire from spreading.

"This is an amazing tool. It's something that we hope to continue using in many more ways in the future as the technology develops,” Fielding added.

The fire in Hawthorne Tuesday was 100 percent contained by early afternoon. The likely cause of the fire, officials say could be lightening.

There were no evacuations issued for the area and officials say the fire was contained in a more forested area so there was no threat to surrounding structures.