(CNN)SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are being used by emergency responders in Washington to help fight fires while bringing internet access to residents in areas devastated by wildfires.
The company loaned seven terminals to access its satellites to the Washington Emergency Management Division (WEMD), public information officer Steven Friederich told CNN. The internet access provided by those satellites are being used by firefighters to coordinate its firefighting efforts in rural areas in the state.Starlink is SpaceX’s program to create a satellite-based internet constellation capable of providing broadband internet across the globe, enabling connectivity to billions of people who may not have reliable internet access. SpaceX has already launched hundreds of satellites into orbit with plans to grow Starlink to include more than 40,000 satellites.Bright satellites in the thousands could impact future space discoveriesWEMD reached out to SpaceX and was already in discussions with the company to improve access to more reliable internet in rural areas when a devastating wildfire swept through Malden, which is a rural town in eastern Washington approximately 35 miles south of Spokane, according to Friederich.About 80% of the homes and buildings in Malden were destroyed by a fast-moving wildfire that swept through the area on September 7, according to the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office.Read MoreWith most of the telecommunications structures in the town burned down, terminals were deployed to grant internet access to residents and emergency responders. Friederich said that terminals were also set up in Western Washington by Bonney Lake, which is approximately 16 miles East of Tacoma, to help with the Sumner-Grade wildfire.Malden, Washington was devastasted by a wildfire that swept through the area.Friederich said that local and state firefighters used the terminals in their incident command vehicles to request resources, organize daily activities, and make decisions, such as ordering helicopters for wildfire fighting activities.”Happy to have the support of @SpaceX’s Starlink internet as emergency responders look to help residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was overcome by wildfires earlier this month,” WEMD wrote in a tweet.A representative for SpaceX did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, instead pointing to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk responding to WEMD.”Glad SpaceX could help!” Musk tweeted. “We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all.”Friederich says that the terminals can be used to continue to help areas affected by wildfires or during a large disaster, such as an earthquake. He said that WEMD is exploring the use of these terminals as a part of its communication strategy moving forward.