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Dixon, Ill., FD Tests Donated Search and Rescue Drone

Sewer Equipment has donated a new search and rescue drone equipped with thermal imaging to assist the Dixon Fire Department in locating victims. The donation follows the August drowning death of the company's engineering manager.

A drone like this one can be used in search and rescue operations.
(TNS) — The Dixon, Ill., Fire Department received a new search-and-rescue drone thanks to a donation from Sewer Equipment.

The thermal drone will be a valuable tool for the department's rescue team, which won't have to wait to borrow one from surrounding agencies, Deputy Chief Dave Lohse said.

"Sadly, with the economy, strict budgeting, and other large ticket expenses, the purchase of the thermal drone was not allocated this budget year," Lohse said. "Dixon's Fire Department has had two incidences this year where drones were requested and our rescue team had to wait over half an hour or more for assistance from other neighboring agencies when sometimes seconds matter during the rescue."

The drone features thermal imaging capabilities that can be used to locate missing victims, assist in mitigating hazardous materials incidents and detect hot spots in large fires where firefighters cannot access.

The department has already used the drone during emergency responses including the fire that destroyed the Auction City building at 2505 W. Fourth St. in September.

The search-and-rescue benefit resonates with the sewer equipment family.

Sewer Equipment President John Wichmann spoke of the tragedy where Jim Shirk drowned in the Rock River when kayaking in August. Shirk, of Erie, was the engineering manager at Sewer Equipment in Dixon for more than 21 years.

"Today's fire service is truly an all-hazards response agency. Over the last decade, our first responders have focused and trained in the areas of hazardous materials, active shooter incidents, and technical rescues such as high-angle rescue, confined-space rescue, swift-water rescue, trench rescue, and building collapse," Lohse said. "The addition of the drone will enhance our emergency service needs and will serve the community for years to come."

Department staff did a drone demonstration at Sewer Equipment Tuesday.

Lohse said since the donation, other businesses have also donated funds that will go toward accessories, attachments and training for the drone. Firefighters and police officers plan to attend drone training in December.

"All of us at Sewer Equipment are grateful that our company was able to donate funding for the purchase of this drone by the Dixon Fire Department," Sewer Equipment owner Dan O'Brien said. "We believe that it will be an important tool for Dixon emergency response personnel to use in the future during search and rescue missions."

Sewer Equipment is a third-generation, family-owned manufacturing business at 1590 Dutch Road in the industrial park in Dixon.

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