Bakersfield Fire Department Firefighter Pilot Ismael Vizcarra sends LOIS into the air to scout for illegal fireworks Tuesday evening. 

When July 4 rolls around, firefighters know they’re usually outnumbered. That’s why they’re glad this year that they have LOIS.

LOIS, of course, stands for Low Orbiting Incident Satellite – the Bakersfield Fire Department’s drone that provides an eye in the sky for investigators sniffing out fireworks scofflaws. And this year, the fire department has purchased a second LOIS, aptly named LOIS II.

Tuesday marked the first time the fire department sent either LOIS into the air for enforcement. Last year was just a trial run.

“We expect it to be a tremendous aid for our ground troops,” BFD Captain John Frando said Tuesday evening before enforcement crews hit the streets. “The sooner we can guide our troops to those locations, the better chance we have of catching them.”

So when LOIS spots a scofflaw, the drone operator can radio the exact address to enforcement crews patrolling the area by car so that they can write citations, which cost offenders $1,000 each in the city and $1,500 in unincorporated Kern County.

Around dusk Tuesday, it seemed to already be working.

When a group of firefighters in the southwest heard the telltale whiz of an illegal firework followed by a trail of smoke, they were quick to deploy LOIS.

When Firefighter Pilot Ismael Vizcarra flicked a switch and toggled a couple of controllers, he sent LOIS straight into the air. Then LOIS zipped over the heads of park-goers having a late picnic at Greystone Park and into a neighborhood where the firework came from.

Vizcarra monitored the streets from LOIS’s camera, which provides an eagle eye view of neighborhoods below – including any miscreants launching illegal fireworks. A few minutes later, another firework launched, and LOIS was off again.

The drone cost roughly $1,000, Vizcarra said. That means if LOIS helped cite just one scofflaw, it would pay itself off.

And if the first few moments of the evening were any indication how the rest of the holiday evening went, the fire department could afford to purchase a whole army of LOISes for next year.

​Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

(1) comment


The device might pay for itself with one scofflaw, but how many scofflaws must be caught to justify the pay for the firefighter operating LOIS or LOIS II? I'm in favor of these fines, but this information seems to be missing from the article.

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