A drone hovered in the air Monday as about 100 firefighters from Kankakee, Iroquois and Will counties battled a brush fire in Pembroke Township.
William Neumann, the director of communications for the Orland Park Fire Protection District, lived streamed video footage from his drone to other departments through his personal Facebook page. It helped them track the fire, protect structures and, above all else, assure nobody got injured.
"It improves accessibility and safety," said Neumann, who started deploying his drone at house fires a year ago. "We can follow the crews and keep an eye on them. It's like Big Brother, only you're tracking a fire and saving time."
It was the first time the Pembroke Fire Protection District, a small department of nine volunteers, had an aerial view to assist them. Chief Mark Baines already has talked to village trustees about purchasing one, considering the department battles more than 100 brush fires per year and had a truck damaged in a brush fire last year.
"We were able to see exactly where the fire was going," Baines said. "Our four guys who were out there felt safer and more confident knowing a drone was watching out for them. I'm all for getting one. They are beneficial."
Orland Park's department has three drones, and Neumann, who has his certificate of authorization, is training the department's battalion chiefs. He said a drone typically costs between $1,000 and $6,000. But in the end, it might save a life, and it would cost less than calling in a helicopter.
"It's 100 percent the way of the future," Neumann said. "I can put a drone up over a creek to find a body during a dive operation, and I can monitor a fire from inside a command post. You are not risking somebody's life when you use them."