Injured hiker rescued off Mount Finlayson

Commercial drone receives field test from Langford firefighters

A 20-year-old Victoria-area man is recuperating this week after falling nearly 20 feet while climbing on Mount Finlayson and being subsequently rescued by Langford firefighters.

Langford Fire Rescue received a 911 call from a person who came upon the fallen hiker at about 4 p.m. last Saturday (Aug. 8). The man had suffered a broken leg and was said to be in a lot of pain. The rescue team accessed the mountain trail via Bear Mountain and reached the man within 15 minutes, said Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey.

The rescue operation involved 14 firefighters and two paramedics and saw the hiker placed on a spine board to stabilize him, then into a basket stretcher, which was transported via a series of ropes to an ATV and eventually to a waiting ambulance, Aubrey said.

The rescue went more quickly than some of the more than half dozen the department has been involved in on Mount Finlayson this year, he added.

“Sometimes rescues such as these can be four or five hours or more,” he said. “This one was just under three hours.”

Luckily for the hiker, he landed relatively close to an established pathway on the mountain, a situation that made locating him and getting him out easier for rescue crews.

Langford firefighters also took the opportunity to test the effectiveness of a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle service hired to help locate the man more quickly.

David Carlos, operator of Victoria Aerial Photos and Survey, was called to the scene and flew his camera-equipped, multi-rotor aircraft overhead, based at the command centre up at nearby Bear Mountain.

While the firefighters managed to find the hiker before the drone, Aubrey said, the aerial vehicle was used to determine the best and safest exit point for the rescue crews to get the man out.

The department is in the early stages of trials on UAV use. But Aubrey sees them as having definite advantages in situations where emergency responders are at risk, such as incidents involving search and rescue, hazardous materials and complex fires.

“This could help give us a more complete picture (to help plan strategy more quickly),” he said. Mountain rescues, in particular, are “lengthy incidents that take an incredible physical and mental toll on our firefighters.” Any tool that can reduce that, he said, deserves to be looked at closely, he added.

Carlos, a Saanich resident who holds a Transport Canada certificate to fly larger UAVs for commercial purposes and trains people to operate them, was making his first flight at Mount Finlayson. He said the incident was a great way to measure the capabilities of his aircraft in a rescue situation and showcased its ability to pinpoint a victim’s location with GPS, monitor crew members and identify hazards along the rescue route.

Aubrey said the department isn’t likely to take action on purchasing a UAV until at least the fall, but the weekend experience has them thinking more about it.

“Drones get a bad rap because of the privacy issues, but it does have applications where it can save lives too.”

Who can fly?

Transport Canada has various rules for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, known by several names including drones, and widely varied in size, power and cost.

To fly your unmanned aircraft for work or research, you may need to follow strict safety conditions outlined in an exemption, or apply for permission from Transport Canada. It depends on the type of aircraft, its weight, as well as how and where you plan to use it.

• If your aircraft weighs 25 kilograms or more, you need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate before you can use it.

• If your aircraft weighs 2 kg or less and you can meet the safety conditions listed in the Transport Canada exemption for UAVs of that size, you don’t need permission to fly.

• If your aircraft weighs between 2.1 kg and 25 kg, and you can meet the safety conditions in the Transport Canada exemption for UAVs in that weight class, you don’t need permission to fly. However, you must notify Transport Canada by completing a submission form, found at

– Transport Canada

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