How a drone helped fight De Pere apartment complex fire

Four apartments were damaged and 6 people were displaced, but no one was hurt
We were given a unique vantage point of the fire response at Crow's Nest Apartments, where 4 apartments were damaged and 6 people were displaced
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 9:45 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2022 at 7:41 PM CDT
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - No one was hurt, but six people are without a home after an apartment complex fire in De Pere Wednesday morning.

As soon as the 911 call came in at 9:15, fire crews knew exactly what to expect and do to knock the fire down quickly.

The 90-unit Crow’s Nest Apartments along the Fox River is one of many locations throughout the area known to firefighters as a “target hazard,” meaning they know it’s a building that will require many units to respond to help people evacuate.

The apartment complex is home to young professionals but also the elderly who may not be able to get out of the building on their own, so multiple agencies responded.

“There’s multiple addresses that we call our target hazards... that we have a lot of people that we need to assist out. This is one of those facilities where we need to really assist people getting out. Not everybody can get out by themselves,” De Pere Battalion Chief Brett Jansen said.

Fire officials tell Action 2 News four of the apartments were damaged and a total of 6 people will need to find another place to stay. They said those tenants were going to stay with family or friends; some are getting help from the American Red Cross.

During the firefight, buses helped transport tenants who were displaced, and the American Red Cross of Wisconsin said disaster volunteers were working with leaders in the city to find out the immediate needs of residents.

Damage from the fire is estimated at $200,000.

De Pere Fire & Rescue used its thermal drone to help look for hotspots. Because the fire started on the second floor, crews were worried about the fire spreading where they couldn’t see it.

“This could have been pretty bad if the fire would have extended any further up into the attic space. We could have lost a lot more apartments, a lot more units, and we’d have a lot of residents without a home tonight,” said Jansen.

Thermal imaging of the attic area of the complex showed a red color, which was good news to firefighters because it indicated another heat source, such as the warmth of the sun, telling them the fire had been contained. The battalion chief says hotspots would have shown up as a deep purple.

“It’s a big complex to walk all the way around. It takes time. A drone can tell us where other people might be staged if they’re not all from -- maybe there’s other people back or if there’s another incident or more fire that we don’t see, we can actually use a drone to see that,” Jansen said.

“It allowed us to look from a bird’s eye view from the sky to see where we had hotspots in the attic, to see what extension we needed to do and where we need to cut more holes to get a stop on the fire so it didn’t take over the whole complex.”

Jansen said before thermal imaging, they would have to blindly search for hotspots. “It was cutting a bunch of holes to figure out where those fires are at.”

Firefighters quickly put the fire out in one unit and used a drone to determine if the flames had spread elsewhere
Fire crews respond to a fire at Crow's Nest Apartments in De Pere. June 29, 2022
Fire crews respond to a fire at Crow's Nest Apartments in De Pere. June 29, 2022(WBAY)

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