Karen Miranda shares a story about a firefighter who has improved safety using dog collars.
|The wildland fire crew at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida equips its ignition specialists, ATVs and helicopter with GPS collars to track multiple real-time locations on a single handheld unit. Photo by USFWS
Who knew that an American hunting tradition could help keep wildland firefighters safe?
Bart Rye, a prescribed fire/fuels technician at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s Gulf Coast, has deer hunted for more than 20 years in nearby national forest using specially trained hounds that run miles at a time. The way he tracks his seven dogs gave him an idea for better monitoring his co-workers in heavy forest on the 70,000-acre refuge.
In these southeastern longleaf pine forests, it is easy to become disoriented in thickets of sprawling saw palmetto, sinkholes and sawgrass up to 10 feet high while walking or riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) during a prescribed fire. Hard-to-spot stumps can cause an especially dangerous situation for vehicles such as dozers and ATVs along an active fireline.
Rye suggested that his fire crew carry GPS transmitter collars, like those worn by his hunting dogs, so fireline supervisors could more easily locate multiple firefighters, vehicles and aircraft during prescribed burns over large areas.
Rye has used the GPS system with his dogs in recent years, in place of older radio telemetry collars, like those used to tag wildlife.