Springfield company donates drone to fire department

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Springfield Fire Department received a special gift Friday morning -
a drone. The gift stems from an event two years ago. Fire crews were called to an emergency underground, at Westside Stone's limestone mine.

Scott Crabtree, general manager of Westside Stone says, "The piece of equipment they were using to load explosives had a malfunction, blew a hydraulic hose, sprayed on a compressor, started a fire on the truck, the explosives truck."

For safety, even firefighters had to stay at a safe distance while the truck burned itself out. "It was really important that we didn't go down and physically walk around the area, because as the explosives solidified, there was a potential that just the friction and impact from either us walking or our robot driving on it could set off the explosives," says Springfield Fire Marshal Ben Basham.

"That's when discussion; it would be nice to have a drone to just fly over and visually see the area and see what they might need to do to make sure it was safe," says Crabtree.

In that case, crews did end up using a robot. But Friday morning, Westside Stone presented the fire department with its very own drone, to be used wherever it's needed. It will help firefighters get a better view almost anywhere, from a safe distance.

"It can actually be deployed not only with a bomb incident, but any kind of incident were just it's use would greatly enhance the life safety of anybody involved in an incident. So it could be a building fire, a high-rise fire, Wildland. It could be a water rescue situation or just a search and rescue," says Basham.

"Just a way to keep them out of harm's way," says Crabtree.

The city of Springfield already has a drone policy, and the fire department is currently finalizing its own, under that policy. It will describe in which situations a drone could be used.