New technology hopes to save firefighters' lives

PHOENIX - One of the key questions after the Yarnell Hill tragedy was how we lost track of 19 firefighters, but a new technology could help to prevent it from happening again.

The Arizona State Forestry Crews are testing a technology that is already protecting our men and women overseas.

It gives real-time information on every fire crew on the ground that families of the fallen say is much needed.

An investigation by an independent group of firefighters revealed glaring signs of confusion and miscommunication on the exact location of 19 Hotshots just minutes before they perished.

This is something that Joe Woyjeck doesn't get especially since he was able to use a simple iPhone application to keep up with his son on June 30th.

"I had tracked him that day just to see where he was at," Woyjeck said.

That investigation recommended changes to help keep track of all crews on the ground.

The state is hoping a small GPS device may be the small fix to a big problem

"Everyone in a team of wild land firefighters can see where their team are. They can also see by putting this [device] in a helicopter, we can see in 10 minutes where the fire perimeter is."

Charles Kirmuss, a volunteer member of a search and rescue team  and  the brains behind this technology,says one too many search and rescues have turned into a recovery.

"That's the hardest thing to deal with, especially when you have the loved ones thanking us after six days of trying to find someone."

The $500 GPS system can attach to any radio unit and it will map out safety zones for hotshots, show them escape routes and give them real time info on the fire.

It can even send text messages with vital information and anyone who is on the same system will know exactly where every firefighter is.

“I have trouble visualizing what happened that day,” Woyjeck said.

This new technology is still in the early stages of testing. The state has also implemented a new communication system requiring crews on the ground to report any time their location and condition of the fire changes.

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