Fla. Forest Service using new high-tech firefighting tool - WFLA News Channel 8

Fla. Forest Service using new high-tech firefighting tool

Posted: Updated:
Patrick Keogh, Forest Area Supervisor Patrick Keogh, Forest Area Supervisor
PLANT CITY, FL (WFLA) -

Florida's Forest Service is starting to use a new high-tech firefighting tool and crews believe it's the first of its kind in the nation.

"This is our first attempt at it. I think other departments can learn from it, use it," said Patrick Keogh, the Forest Area Supervisor for the Florida Forest Service. "It has increased our safety significantly, in my opinion."

The system, called an "asset tracking system," allows a fire crew supervisor to see where his team members are. The Forest Service has installed transponders on bulldozers and brush engines that send a signal back to a laptop with the exact location.

"We can see where his location is within about a 2-mile radius of our spot," said Keogh as he pointed to a bulldozer on the map.

Bay area districts recently installed the system, and it should be in use across the state within the next weeks. It was developed internally at a cost around $2 million, but there should be no operating costs for it because it requires no internet and no wireless cards. It uses the radio transmissions that crews were utilizing in the first place.

Florida lost two firefighters in 2011 when a wildfire killed two of them in the Panhandle.

Last year, an Arizona wildfire made national headlines when 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew died on in the Yarnell Hill fire. Investigators believe, among other problems, poor radio communication between firefighters and support staff played a role in those deaths.

In the Southeast, firefighters use heavy equipment like bulldozers to battle wildfires. Hand crews are primarily used out west because of rough terrain, Keogh explained.

Firefighters remain in radio contact, but even their large bulldozers are camouflaged in the brush of Florida's forest.

"If he runs into trouble, I can help direct crews to his exact location," Keogh said. "Whether it be a helicopter to give him - to dump water to protect him from a fire if he's stuck in front of it...or even if he breaks down - we know exactly where he's at. Do we know if it will necessarily prevent an injury or fatality? You can't predict that, obviously, but I think it's just another tool in our toolbox to help us keep our guys safe."


  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Squatters moving out of New Port Richey soldier's home

    Squatters moving out of New Port Richey soldier's home

    Thursday, April 24 2014 6:50 AM EDT2014-04-24 10:50:51 GMT
    Squatters begin moving out of Spc. Michael Sharkey's home on Wednesday night.Squatters begin moving out of Spc. Michael Sharkey's home on Wednesday night.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community and now, the squatters are moving out. 
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community and now, the squatters are moving out.  
  • Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:35 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:35:13 GMT
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:58 AM EDT2014-04-23 12:58:50 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Polk deputies arrest Plant City murder suspect

    Polk deputies arrest Plant City murder suspect

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:59 PM EDT2014-04-24 16:59:35 GMT
    Master Brown was arrested on a second degree murder warrant. Polk Co. Jail booking photoMaster Brown was arrested on a second degree murder warrant. Polk Co. Jail booking photo
    Plant City Police Officers have arrested a man suspected of shooting and killing a man outside a convenience store on Wednesday.
    Plant City Police Officers have arrested a man suspected of shooting and killing a man outside a convenience store on Wednesday.
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors

    Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:55 PM EDT2014-04-24 16:55:03 GMT
    Police in Afghanistan say a security guard has opened fire in a Kabul hospital, killing three foreigners and wounding one other person.
    An Afghan government security guard opened fire Thursday on a group of foreign doctors at a Kabul hospital, killing three American physicians and wounding a U.S. nurse, officials said.
  • Police working with 2 new victims in Polk teacher sex scandal

    Police working with 2 new victims in Polk teacher sex scandal

    Thursday, April 24 2014 12:42 PM EDT2014-04-24 16:42:39 GMT
    The Lakeland Police Department is working with two new potential victims in the case involving Jennifer Fichter, the former Polk County high school teacher who faces multiple sex charges.
    The Lakeland Police Department is working with two new potential victims in the case involving Jennifer Fichter, the former Polk County high school teacher who faces multiple sex charges.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.