LAFD deploys drones 'for first time ever' to assess wildfire threat

For the first time, the Los Angeles Fire Department on Thursday deployed drones to help coordinate its battle against a pair of wildfires threatening homes in the city.

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said the drones were used "for the first time ever," primarily to conduct property assessment as the agency surveys damage caused by the Creek Fire near Sylmar and the Skirball Fire in the Bel Air and Sepulveda Pass.

"We also can look for hotspots," Terrazas said. "The drone will fly over, locate hotspots, and then we'll dispatch our firefighters to get final extinguishment in that area. So we're very, very proud of that new technology."

The City Council in late June approved the department's deployment of drones, and in November approved guidelines for their use. The approvals came despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups that raised concerns that the devices could be used to conduct surveillance and invade residents' privacy.

The groups' concerns have been aimed primarily at the Los Angeles Police Department, which has also been authorized by the Police Commission to begin a pilot program for using drones in select tactical situations.

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