Firefighters in Oregon were quick to take advantage of improved drone technology when fighting fires on federal land in 2018. The state logged more drone flights than any other state.
Drones helped fire suppression with infrared mapping and real-time imagery of fires. They were especially helpful when smoke restricted the ability for manned aircraft to fly in the area.
Out of nearly 1,500 drone flights on federal fires in 2018 across the United States, 715 were in the state of Oregon. Forest Service crews, Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Forestry all used unmanned aircraft systems in their efforts. About 80% of the nearly 850,000 acres burned in Oregon were on federal lands.
The incident with the most drone use in the country was the 2018 Garner Complex in Oregon.
“We used them on the Klondike Fire last year, Klondike and Taylor Fires both,” Natalie Simrell, Fire Management Officer with Bureau of Land Management, said in an article on KATU. “They (drones) were a huge asset for us, they were able to carry ping pong machines to burn out; they did fire perimeters and flew infrared for us.”
The Oregon Department of Forestry is expecting the number of flight hours to increase in 2019 and beyond as their drone program grows.