Aerial Camera Helps Neb. FFs

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NORFOLK, Neb. --


Firefighters battling a potentially explosive propane fire in Norfolk on Thursday said they had some high-tech help from the sky.

The Nebraska State Patrol had its helicopter in service, sending back live video to teams on the ground.

Raw Video: Norfolk Propane Tank Fire

"You don't have to paint a picture with your words," said Lt. Frank Peck of the Air Wing State Patrol. "Now you can actually send a picture to them. They can see it live and they can make decisions on the ground that need to be made."

The camera is gyro-stabilized, allowing the helicopter to zoom in on the fire while staying a safe distance away. Its thermal-image system showed firefighters how hot the 30,000-gallon tank was getting.

"Any information we can provide to make the operation go smoother or safer," Peck said.

Norfolk Fire Chief Shane Weidner said the information he was getting was invaluable.

"We were able to make decisions based on what we were seeing at the command post," Weidner said.

The patrol has had the live video capability since it got its new helicopter five years ago. It also has similar technology installed on two patrol planes, using it to help with fires, missing persons searches and other operations.

The signal is secure and portable receivers can be set up anywhere, including with tactical units that are entering a crime scene.

"That's maybe needed to stop somebody from doing some harm or ambushing somebody," said Peck.

The patrol wouldn't say all of the things that their cameras can do. But it let a lot of people breathe a sigh of relief when they saw that the fire was out.

"What made me feel pretty good was when I looked and saw some firefighters congratulating themselves on the ground," Peck said.


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