Arizona firefighters testing tracking systems to keep them safe in remote areas

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 1:52pm

The Arizona Department of Forestry is testing a new satellite-based system designed to keep crews safe while battling fires in remote areas. 

Six of the agency’s wildland firefighting crews will carry the GPS tracking and locating systems, known as DropBlocks. The idea is to use satellite reception where cellphone service is spotty or nonexistent.

"They’re another layer of safety," said Tiffany Davila, the agency’s public information officer.

"If these devices prove successful, we will roll them out to all of our hand crews."

The devices provide real-time data of where firefighters are. 

During the Yarnell Hill tragedy in 2013, firefighters lost communications for 30 minutes when the weather suddenly shifted and 2,000-degree flames overtook them.

Fronteras Wildfires