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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Firefighters with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department are using new technology to battle fires and tackle water rescues from the air: drones.

“We use it anytime we want to see a picture from above,” said Metro Fire Captain Ryan Gifford.

Metro Fire has developed its unmanned aerial vehicle program over the years, allowing them to see things they wouldn’t normally be able to see by ground.

“Allows us to fly pretty much anywhere, anytime, and get us into places that might otherwise be restricted,” Gifford said.

Gifford said the department has about a dozen pilots and 17 aircraft during the summer. Having the UAVs are especially helpful.

“The UAVs have been used a lot for over-water search using thermal imaging, looking for a heat signature of a person in a relatively cool body of water is very effective,” Gifford said. “We’re set to deliver life jackets and helmets, potentially, for water rescue victims.”

While the technology may be new to public safety, Gifford said it isn’t going anywhere.

“This is one of those technologies that’s going to be around going forward for sure, and the need for that technology is going to be ever-increasing,” Gifford said.

But drone technology does come with its challenges, as these devices are now becoming readily available for anyone to purchase.

“It has occurred where we’ve had civilian, recreational UAVs in the same general air space and that becomes a major concern,” Gifford said.

As the technology continues to develop, Metro Fire said it plans to use the drones to help prevent wildfires by surveying vegetation growth in the spring and know what conditions crews will be working with as the fire season approaches.