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Southern Marin fire renews its effort to launch drone program

After a pandemic-related two-year delay, the Southern Marin Fire Protection District is renewing plans to launch a drone program to assist in search-and-rescue, fire-prevention and evacuation efforts.

The district is now targeting the start of its new fiscal year, July 1, to get the program off the ground after a series of fits and starts since its genesis in 2020, said Tom Welch, the district’s deputy chief of operations and training.

That year, the district announced it wanted to be able to deploy drones in emergency situations after seeing the unmanned aircraft in action during a massive mudslide in February 2019.

The mudslide swept a house with a woman inside down a steep hill in Sausalito, and first responders from the Strawberry district had a hard time safely navigating the site and searching for additional victims. Another agency arrived and deployed a drone equipped with a camera, which allowed crews to locate unstable debris in the slide site and avoid gasoline-soaked areas from cars that had tumbled down the hillside.

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