New crew locating system to be tested this fire season in Arizona

May 17, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 12:52 pm

(Arizona Department of Forestry Photo)...

(Arizona Department of Forestry Photo)

(Arizona Department of Forestry Photo)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management will test a new satellite-based crew locating and communication device this fire season.

The system, DropBlocks, will provide for increased crew accountability and safety during incidents where there may be little to no cell phone or radio service.

DropBlocks will be carried and tested by six of DFFM’s 12 wildland fire hand crews. The agency is one of few wildland firefighting agencies in the country with this type of firefighter accountability system. The devices are products of RoGo, a Colorado-based company that develops state-of-the-art, satellite-based firefighter reporting systems.

The department has been exploring for years ways to increase crew safety and enhance communication between firefighters and overhead.

Juliann Ashcraft, the wife of fallen firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, said the devices will provide Wildland Firefighters with a more collaborative and communicated tactical effort.

“Such advances will lead to extinguishing wildfires more efficiently and effectively, and help reduce tragic line of duty deaths, like
my husband’s,” Ashcroft said.

Chief Darrell Willis, DFFM’s crew supervisor, said the tool will be most important and they hope the locating units will help prevent any more wildland fire tragedies.

“The application of these devices has been in the works for quite some time now and has really been a long time coming,” Willis said.

The system will not use standard radio or cell services and will be provided by Iridium Satellite.  DropBlocks will coordinate up-to-the-minute GPS location data and provide real-time data transmissions to agency or incident overhead. According to the agency, the system will be able to more precisely track crew movement and locations in wildland fire incidents.

“By implementing this new technology, tragedies similar to Yarnell Hill will not have to be repeated in the future,” Ashcroft said. “It is imperative to us that lessons be learned from the tragic loss of the GMIHC, and that the deaths of my husband and friends drive profound and lasting change in how we approach wildland firefighting.”

If testing is successful, DFFM plans to distribute the device to all the agency’s wildland firehand crews and engine crews.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Ability360 Photo)...

Ability360 works to support independent living for those with disabilities

KTAR's community spotlight this month focuses on a Valley business that offers various services to those living with disabilities.

21 hours ago

Editorial members of the Austin American-Statesman's Austin NewsGuild picket along the Congress Ave...

Associated Press

Hundreds of journalists strike to demand leadership change at biggest US newspaper chain

Journalists at two dozen local newspapers across the U.S. walked off the job Monday to demand an end to painful cost-cutting measures and a change of leadership at Gannett, the country's biggest newspaper chain.

21 hours ago

(Unsplash Photo)...

2 young children hospitalized in critical condition following crash in Glendale

Two young children and a total of five people were hospitalized in critical condition Monday following a multivehicle crash in Glendale.

21 hours ago

(Facebook Photo/Quantá for AZ)...

Quantá Crews selected to replace Flavio Bravo in Arizona House

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed Quantá Crews on Monday to replace Flavio Bravo in the Arizona House.

21 hours ago

File phot of the back of a Phoenix, Arizona, police officer. The Phoenix Police Department unveiled...

Kevin Stone

Phoenix Police Department unveils strategic plan to reduce crime

The Phoenix Police Department on Monday unveiled a strategic plan that takes a community and victim-centered approach to reducing crime.

21 hours ago

Booking photo of Raul Perez Ochoa and a file photo of a Gilbert Police Department cruise. Ochoa, an...

East Valley massage therapist accused of sexual offenses

An East Valley massage therapist accused of sexual offenses was arrested last week, and police are looking for more possible victims.

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

New crew locating system to be tested this fire season in Arizona