New drone to help CAL FIRE Fresno County battle flames

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As fires continue to devastate the Central Valley, a new tool is helping Fresno County CAL FIRE officials prepare to fight the flames.

This is the Mavic Pro Quadcopter, which CAL FIRE crews now have at their disposal to gain a different vantage on fires, and new information they couldn't get before.

"It gives us another tool in our tool bag to be able to limit exposure to some of the firefighting personnel, it gives us a different vantage, and really just gives us a different perspective on what's happening with an incident," says CAL FIRE Batallion Chief Dan Urias.

Fresno County is one of the first units in CAL FIRE to test out the new program.

Urias is one of three battalion chiefs trained to operate the drone in an emergency response.

The drones can fly for up to 30 minutes per battery, with multiple batteries on hand.

There are also lighting attachments to help see at night, with the potential to go inside of buildings.

Plus, it has thermal imaging cameras to pick up heating signals.

It also gives information about fuel breaks and the aftermath of fires.

Instead of putting ground crews at risk, CAL FIRE can utilize the drone when there's a lot of smoke, heat and at lower altitudes than a manned aircraft.

"If there's an area that's too dangerous that we don't want to put firefighters in, we can always get a birds-eye view with the drone first," says CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Seth Brown.

The federal aviation administration authorizes CAL FIRE to the fly the drone at or below 400 feet above ground level within the county.

Officials say this is just the start of using cutting-edge technology to help fight fires.

CAL FIRE will increase their fleet, with more drones expected in the coming weeks.
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