Drones helping West Carrollton police, fire departments

West Carrollton recently spent $13,000 on two drones to help its police and fire departments. Each device has a thermal imaging camera that can help the fire department better assess a blaze and the police department locate a missing person or a suspect. CONTRIBUTED
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West Carrollton recently spent $13,000 on two drones to help its police and fire departments. Each device has a thermal imaging camera that can help the fire department better assess a blaze and the police department locate a missing person or a suspect. CONTRIBUTED

A state-of-the-art “eye in the sky” is helping West Carrollton’s police and fire departments better serve and protect the city’s residents.

The city recently spent $13,000 on two drones, both of which have thermal imaging camera that allow the fire department to tell where a fire is located during an active fire scene and help crews provide better and speedier service, according to West Carrollton Fire Chief Chris Barnett.

“During times when we need to investigate fires, Mike Long, as our inspector, he can get up above the ... building and take a look at where the damage is at,” Barnett said. “Anytime that we have any kind of natural disaster, those (drones) are going to be valuable because you may not be able to get to those areas and it gives you a better view, so we have that capability now to do those kind of things.”

Police Chief Doug Woodard said some of the things the drones will allow his department to do include looking night or day for missing or lost children “in places that we couldn’t see” and discern tactical situations during various incidents.

“We can do things that we not be able to normally do having the advantage of having the drones,” Woodard said. “We’re extremely, extremely happy that have these tools.”

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Both the police and fire departments have four employees each who are trained in how to operate the aircraft and members of both departments also are trained as visual observers, he said.

Local VFW Post 3438 contributed $3,000 toward the expense.

“We really appreciate the VFW coming along side us and stepping forward and helping us with this endeavor,” Woodard said.

City council recognized the VFW post Tuesday for its contribution to the drone program.

Joe Ketring, a past post commander, said “the VFW, being a veterans organization, part of our projects are to help the communities.”

The VFW previously aided the city by purchasing the fire department’s fire extinguisher trainer, which the department has used “quite extensively,” Barnett said.

“We like doing it,” Ketring told city council. “If you need something, come see us and we’ll see if we can help.”

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Barnett said the drones also can benefit the city’s service department, which could take a peek at the city’s water tower, antennae or scalable parcel of land, instead of having an employee climb the structure.

“There’s a lot of ideas that can be used in that outside of the emergency services,” he said. “I think we’ll get good use out of these.”

The drones are even helping outside the community, Woodward said.

“We’ve already gotten contacted by two surrounding jurisdictions within the last month for requests for use of our drone to help them out with a couple of different situations,” he said. “One was a lost adult, an Alzheimer’s patient, and another one was a traffic stop.”

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