Firefighters Use Drones to Tame Rim Fire in Yosemite

Fire officials are now using a drone to help fight the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park.

There’s no more messing around with the Yosemite fire, also known as the Rim Fire. Fire commanders have enlisted the help of a Predator drone, to battle the giant wildfire. The drone’s role will be to give firefighters “early views of any new flare-ups across in the remote and rugged landscape,” reports The Oregonian.

The fire began on August 17, and as of August 30, was raging across 315 square miles leaving decimated homes and buildings in its wake, and threatening California’s famed giant sequoias. It spread quickly and has been deemed one of the ten largest wildfires in California history.

The drone is on loan from the California National Guard. It’s controlled remotely by the 163rd Wing from hundreds of miles away at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside in Southern California. The unmanned plane is small, roughly the size of a Cessna, and it can fly over the burn zone for up to 22 hours at a time, much longer than the helicopters, which must refuel after two hours.

“The drone is providing data directly back to the incident commander, allowing him to make quick decisions about which resources to deploy and where,” California fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told The Associated Press.

Fire officials are starting to feel like the fire’s end is in sight. It’s 30 percent contained and has burned through sections of thick underbrush , reaching an area that has burned more recently and thus has less fuel. Lower temperatures and less windy conditions have also helped the firefighters.

“We continue to get line around this fire,” Berlant said. “It’s not nearly as active as it was last week.”

Although the firefighters hope to have the fire contained by September 10, the blaze isn’t expected to be completely out until California’s dry season ends this fall.