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Wildfire Investigators Use High-Tech Equipment To Find Source

DENVER (CBS4)- After the flames from a wildfire have been extinguished, a team of wildfire investigators determine how the fire started. Investigators are working with new technology which gives them a whole new view of fires.

Bob Toth of Iris Fire Investigations unveils his "Iris Flyer;" an unmanned aircraft with four propellers operated by a high powered remote control. A high definition camera is mounted underneath.

"This gives us an entirely different perspective of a fire scene we couldn't get." Toth explained.

Until now fire investigators searched for a cause exclusively from the ground; finding burn patterns in the trees and following them back to where the fire originated.

"So like footprints on the beach we'll start looking at those patterns and see where a person was walking, or where the fire was moving, and work backwards to an area of origin," said Toth.

Toth is a private fire investigator. His company is hired by insurance companies to confirm how a fire started and to determine who should be held liable.

In the past, fire investigators relied on aerial shots from news helicopters. But the views they really need are patterns in the charred forest after the flames are extinguished.

That's where the Iris Flyer comes in.

"We used this on the Lower North Fork Fire and it performed extremely well." Toth said, "We were able to launch at each loss site to give an aerial view of the damage done to the structure. Then at the same time, we were able to pan out across the mountainside to show how the fire fanned out and attacked the home."

The Iris Flyer is operated by a pilot and a co-pilot. Toth assumes the co-pilot role, donning special goggles, where he can make sure the camera is getting the right shot.

"This is one of the few flights that don't provide movies, we make our own," said Toth.

- By Mark Ackerman for

Wildfire Resources

- Visit's Wildfire Ready section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfire (Fourmile Fire) and largest wildfire (Hayman Fire) in Colorado history.

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