Legislation to mandate the use of cutting edge technology in fighting wildfires passed the House Wednesday and is now headed to the president’s desk.
Sponsors say the legislation brings firefighting into the 21st century. For one, it requires all fire crews to be outfitted with GPS locators.
“Firefighters have died because their supervisors have not known where they were,” says Bill Gabbert, a former firefighter who now runs the website Wildfire Today.
The bill also mandates the use of drones to monitor the growth and direction of fires as they spread. Right now, firefighters typically get information about a fire’s size and location once each day. The information gathered by drones will help update real-time maps that will also show the location of fire crews. Gabbert says it’ll be a game-changer.
“It will make it possible for firefighters to know two things: where the fire is in real time and where the firefighters are in real time,” says Gabbert.
However, the legislation does not include funding for the drone and GPS tracking technology. It will be up to individual agencies to figure out how to pay for it within their usual budgets.
Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.
Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.