Infrared plane helps firefighters deal with spot-overs in wildfire - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Infrared plane helps firefighters deal with spot-overs in wildfire

April 24, 2007


Waycross -- Georgia Forestry Officials have a new tool in their arsenal to fight the Ware County fire. It's plane with a mounted infrared camera that gives them a better picture of just where this fire is burning.

While local fire fighters have been a good resource for the Forestry Commission a plane brought in from Ogden, Utah is giving them a better idea of just where they need to send those crews to douse hot spots and now you can get a better idea of just where this fire is burning.

"You can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time," said Sue McLellon of the Florida Division of Forestry.

Using an Infrared camera on the belly of the plane, the camera can cut through the smoke to pinpoint each area of intense heat. "When a certain area triggers the heat sensor, it will put a little dot basically on the scanner and my job basically as the infrared interpreter is to map that onto a map that onto a map that folks can read," said McLellon.

The plane made four passes over the 53,000 acre fire and can now show the Forestry Commission where to concentrate their efforts.

"When you look at the map, you can see where those heat areas are and that way we're able to tell the folks in the morning, where they need to send people to work on those areas."

Each little red dot is where separate fires are burning and show where fire breaks might be challenged. "We're looking for some intensities of fire burn along the fire line," said McLellon.

From today's mapping you could see several areas along the break where fires have challenged the lines, so far those lines have been able to hold and they're saying they were able to better hit some of those hot spots today, knowing exactly where they are.

The Georgia Forestry Commission will use the plane again tonight to check the day's progress. It costs around $863 an hour to use the plane and a flight can take anywhere from a half hour to an hour.Spot over problems on the northwest line caused some concern this morning as it ignited another patch of ground. Crews were called quickly to deal with the problem and bring it under control. That's been the main goal, gaining containment and keeping it. The Forestry Commission feels that this point the 50 percent containment will hold.

"Without a major wind event, weather change, if we don't see that real, real low humidity if we can hold this 30 percent, 10 to 12 miles per hour winds, I think we can begin to see ground gained on that, I really feel that, I felt that for the last couple of days, but you don't want to be too optimistic and get folks excited," said Chief Ranger Byron Haire.

Those spot overs happened half way between Manor and Waycross. Higher humidity levels and southerly winds are also sending some smoke into Waycross this afternoon.

They say if the winds can keep to no stronger than 10 mile per hour, then the Forestry commission says they feel confident they can continue to contain the fire further, and it's boosting the moral for fire fighters out here who have been working to contain this fire for more than a week now.

When Georgia Forestry Commission members reach the two week point a lot of workers will be mandated to take a break for two days to rest. They hope to have this fire under control before they reach that deadline.

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