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Aera in the Community Jun 10, 2020

Fresno County’s new eye in the sky aids emergency response

Aera’s donation provides firefighters a bird’s eye view

Drone video footage

This video footage from Fresno County’s new drone shows its impressive thermal imaging and training capabilities.

Emergency and fire-response efforts in dangerous or inaccessible areas of west Fresno County are safer for first responders, thanks to a new drone funded by a $5,000 donation from Aera Energy.

Fresno County firefighters wasted no time in putting the remote-controlled aircraft to good use.

During a large haystack fire May 21, the drone provided them with a bird’s eye view of developments on the ground. That helped firefighters prevent flames from spreading and causing additional damage.

Besides helping Fresno County first responders gain aerial views of hard-to-reach areas, the small drone can also:

  • aid search-and-rescue operations;
  • help respond to fire incidents when law-enforcement helicopters aren’t available to assist;
  • serve as a helpful tool to prepare for what the state has warned will be a tough wildfire season.

“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 allow us to more efficiently provide the emergency services that are needed,” said Fresno County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Mark A. Johnson.

The drone will also help with training, including swift-water rescue and urban search-and-rescue exercises.

Seth Brown

Seth Brown, Fresno County Fire Department battalion chief and public information officer, operates the drone from the ground. The small drone carries a video camera and infrared imaging capabilities.

Essential for the future

“This drone represents the future of emergency response efforts,” said Fresno County Supervisor Ernest Buddy Mendes.

“First responders are using this technology all over the country already, and it’s something we needed in Fresno County,” he added. “It’s an essential piece of equipment if it can make things safer for our first responders, who put their lives on the line for us every day.”

Fresno County’s new drone will help serve more than 200,000 people spread out over some 2,600 square miles that make up the fire district.  

“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 our safety is our neighbors’ safety.

“By working together, we can protect the health and safety of our communities in Fresno County this fire season, and for years to come,” added Patterson.

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