A Predator drone is helping California fire officials get a handle on a Yosemite National Park wildfire that’s already consumed thousands of acres.
The Rim Fire, which started in mid-August, was about 30 percent contained Thursday morning, and the drone is helping to give officials a real-time look at the extent of the fire. While mostly flying over unpopulated sections, the drone, operated by the 163rd Wing of the California National Guard, is escorted by a manned plane when it’s outside the fire area.
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The drone, which is about as big as a small Cessna, can fly over the burning area for 22 hours at a time. That’s a big benefit over previously used helicopters that had to refuel frequently.
“They’re piping what they’re seeing directly to the incident commander, and he’s seeing it in real time over a computer network,” Lt. Col. Tom Keegan told Fox News
Drones have been used in other fire-fighting missions, including a 2009 NASA Predator that used infrared imaging to determine damage in a Angeles National Forest fire.
The Yosemite fire continues to rage, and another 300 firefighters joined the fight this week. It’s the sixth largest fire in California’s history and has so far cost about $40 million and burned 301 square miles.
Crews were creating large backfires in hopes of stopping the fire’s spread. Officials told the Los Angeles Times that the fire is spreading more slowly
, and they’re hopeful it will be contained in the next two weeks.
More than 100 buildings were destroyed by the fire.
The California National Guard posted video of its troops fighting the fire on Twitter, and NASA Earth posted an interactive map of the Rim Fire.
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