YOSEMITE, Calif. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- The Rim Fire burning in and around Yosemite National Park is now 60 percent contained. The blaze has scorched 350 square miles since it first started back on august 17th. The cause of the fire is under investigation and they are estimating containment on September 20th.
To help fight the massive blaze, in addition to almost five thousand fire fighters and air tankers, fire fighters have added a new tool to help them get a better view of the blaze, unmanned military aircraft drones.
The drones being used to fight the Rim fire are launched from the March Air Reserve base in Victorville, California and are piloted from Riverside. The data is then transmitted, in real time, to incident commanders on the fire lines, allowing them to see exactly where hot spots are located, and how many acres have burned.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief and spokesperson Julie Hutchinson says that, “having a fire of this size and magnitude and to be able to get real time data of the perimeter has been a huge benefit”
Fire officials say the drones provide incredibly precise, and reliable data on the fire and according to lieutenant colonel Thomas Keegan with the California Air National Guard, the drones have also help keep those on the front lines, out of harm’s way.
He says that, “There's upwards of 4000 firefighters on the ground and from a national guard perspective, we're happy to provide assistance so they can do their jobs effectively...those are the hero's out there, we're just flying our RPA's that help them gather information so they can put this thing out quicker.”
Drones being used over the rim fire are the same predator drones used in overseas combat, the only difference, these drones aren't armed with weapons, just infrared cameras.