TFD making most of drone during major incidents

Toledo Fire officials say drones have enabled them to quickly assess the status of a fire while on scene. (Photo: TFD/TPD)

Nearly one year after the purchase of a nearly $15,000 drone was approved by Toledo City Council, city officials say it is making a positive impact on the community.

While the equipment was purchased for the Toledo Police Department, it is frequently used by the Toledo Fire Department during major incidents, such as two recent apartment fires in south Toledo and Uptown, respectively.

In the days that followed both the Andover and Wachter apartment fires, we saw remarkable aerial footage showing just how destructive those incidents were. But that drone is no toy. It has been a significant tool for fire officials.

"It gives us an ability to see the condition of the roof of the building without putting our members in harm's way when the fire is advanced and there's potential for collapse," said Capt. Mike Benadum.

In recent years, firefighter safety has been a carefully navigated objective for the department. Use of the drone helps ensure that safety, he says.

From a tactical position, crews are looking closely at a variety of factors.

"Number one, do we have smoke coming through cracks, creases, crevices? Do we have actual fire coming through the roof? Is there any sagging -- bulging walls, separation of where the walls meet the roof?"

All things that can help determine how to attack a structure fire; things like do crews go in -- and do they stay there?

That being said, Capt. Benadum says nothing compares to the gut and training of the human firefighter.

"The best tool is we have is a good, smart-thinking firefighter. But if the technology is available and it is accurate as this drone has proven to be in several incidents, then we'll absolutely utilize it."

The drone was custom-made by local company Toledo Aerial Media.

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