RIPON, Wis. (WBAY) - A bird's-eye view is one of the best you can get. It's that perspective, and what it could mean for police and fire, that led the Ripon police and fire departments to invest in a drone program together.
Ripon's police and fire drone flies over a fire training exercise on April 11, 2018 (WBAY SkyView 2 photo)
During a fire demonstration, a thermal imaging camera from a drone caught a downed firefighter from above. It demonstrates just one of the many ways the new Ripon police and fire drone equipment will help the community.
Tim Saul is the Ripon Area Fire District Chief. He says, "It's being used for assist in search and rescue, lost people out in the community, hazardous materials situations. We can identify hazardous materials before we even put our guys into a situation."
"I think it means a lot to the P.D., help us with a lot of investigations. It can help us with traffic accidents, criminal damage to property," adds Officer Bret Henning from the Ripon Police Department.
The Ripon Fire Department originally purchased the drone but opened its training and use to the police department, launching the cooperative program.
Since then, the police department has only used it for training. According to Henning, "You never know when you're going to need it, so it's a good option to have."
The fire department used it not only to monitor an explosion at a local factory. -- "It was a good indicator for us of what we had before we even went into the building," says Chief Saul -- but it also aided in the surveillance of the controlled burn in Beaver Dam last month.
Chief Saul says, "We were probably about a mile away, and we can zoom in to where they can get a good grasp of what they're up against."
Even though it cost about $12,000 to get the program up and running, the police and fire departments say it really was a priceless investment.
Chief Saul adds, "We'll be able to do and see things that we couldn't see before earlier and faster. It's just another tool in our toolbox to keep our guys safe and provide a better service to the community."