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How Cal Fire uses drones to fight wildfires

Cal fire is using new drone technology to fight wildfires. Giving them a bigger picture of wildfires so they know how to best put them out. 

It's already a busy season for firefighters with wildfires sparking up more often. The drones Cal Fire uses give firefighters more resources.

"They're able to give us any type of heat source, or if there's an evacuation being put in place, or we have trapped people, they can identify those people and actually know where they're at on the incident," said Captain Richard Cordova with Cal Fire Riverside. 

The department's drone program started nearly two years ago and now has about six certified pilots. 

"These individuals keep them in their vehicles and so when an incident commander needs a drone, they will request that drone via our command center," said Cordova. "In the past, we would have someone out there actually walking in the fire line to get the acres on the wildfire, and now we just fly a drone."

Ground crews can avoid going into dangerous conditions if the drone can be used instead. The drones have infrared capabilities. That means they can capture thermal images of the landscape below. The heat signatures help firefighters determine where they should create containment lines.

"Using these drones in the infrared, the incident commander can open up a camera within their vehicle and actually see the fire front and actually determine how much equipment they need," said Cordova. "The way this protects citizens, I believe is getting to know how fast we need to do a mass evacuation."

Once the wildfire is out, the drone can still be used to investigate

"You're seeing how that fire actually moved and what direction it kind of went in the beginning stages of the wildland fire," said Cordova.

Cal Fire Riverside plans to expand the drone program by getting more firefighters certified. It also wants to make sure each battalion car has a drone ready to go if needed.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.


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