Nova Scotia

Halifax fire department's $60K drone plan approved

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency's plan to add drones to its stock of emergency gear was approved by the city's audit and finance committee Wednesday, but must still be approved by council.

Deputy chief of operations says drones will make fire response more timely, effective and safe

Money for the drones will come from an existing fire department reserve fund. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) is looking to add drones to its stock of emergency gear to allow for quicker and more effective responses, and decrease the safety risks to first responders.

HRFE's plan to dip into existing fire department reserves to buy two unmanned aerial vehicles at a cost of $60,000 was approved Wednesday by the city's audit and finance committee.

The motion will be put before council for final approval in the near future.

Snow-covered roofs

The idea for getting drones first came about in the winter of 2015, when the municipality received a high number of calls to perform building assessments from people fearing high snow accumulations were affecting the structural integrity of their roofs.

Brian Gray, HRFE's deputy chief of operations, says they've seen firsthand that drones can be used in those types of situations, but can also come in handy in structure fires.

"When we have a fire, one of the main points of contention for us is the safety on the roof because we may be putting crews on the roof, so we want to know what the roof looks like," he said.

"If we can put a drone up to get a quick view and see if there's a heavy load or if there's fire impinging on that roof using the infrared cameras that would be on these drones, we would be able to see if it would be safe."

Fighting wildfires

Gray says drones also have valuable applications when it comes to fighting wildfires.

"We can get a better sense of the size and scope of the wildland fire," he said, as well as a better understanding of whether any homes are impacted and what the access points are to get in and out when fighting the fire.

HRFE will have to resubmit its request for proposals on the drone project. The initial tender request from September 2015, did not satisfy the needs of the fire department.

With files from Michael Gorman