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California Air National Guard Drones Helping Firefighters

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As thousands of firefighters descend on the wildfires spreading across California, they are getting high-tech help from state government drones flying high above them.

California Air National Guard video shows the haunting wildfire scenes from overhead. Away from the fire lines, the wrath of these fires is being mapped at every moment.

The California Air National Guard is operating unmanned aircraft, MQ-9 drones, to analyze and chart the rapid movements of the wildfires.

"They've been trying to fight it and contain it but it's been proving difficult over the days," Senior Airman Austin Kingfisher said. "It kept growing and growing."

Kingfisher is looking at the drone-drawn 3-D map of the Ferguson Fire, burning near Yosemite.

"We'll just map out a perimeter and tell them this is where we last saw it," Airman Kingfisher said.

Street Level View Of Active Wildfires:

The California Air National Guard drones are equipped with laser range-finders and infrared sensors, able to cut through thick smoke and provide images instantly. They are sent to firefighters on the ground immediately.

"It helps us to locate areas where we didn't know we had spot fires, give us the intel of what those fires are actually doing, it helps us in the strategy of when we hit various decision points, to implement evacuations," CAL FIRE Commander Rocky Oplinger said.

Up-to-the-minute mapping of a natural disaster unfolding across California wildlands.

"And in 30 minutes it could be 100 yards further down," Airman Kingfisher said.

Its the latest high tech tool--tracking California's new normal.

The drone-mapping has been used by the California Air National Guard for the past two fire season.

The drones have also been deployed to Florida and Texas to help in the aftermath of natural disasters such as hurricanes.

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