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Thomas Fire

Unit Information

Los Padres National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
Goleta, CA 93117

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Air Force Drone on the Thomas Fire

Thomas Fire Wildfire
News – 12/18/2017

The MQ-9 Reaper

The MQ-9 Reaper is a reconnaissance drone that the United States Air Force is utilizing to assist in the suppression of the Thomas Fire. Crews at March Air Force Base work around the clock to provide almost 24 hours of near real time situational awareness to incident operations. The crews who make this happen consists of a pilot, sensor operator, intelligence analyst, and a support structure to include maintenance, communications, and personnel.

With this dedicated team, incident command receives critical information in real time, about fire perimeters, locations of spot fires, and assessments of structural damage. All of this information enhances the incident command’s ability to make informed decisions and get the most out of the firefighting resources available.

Drone video footage over the fire area

The MQ-9 has the ability to fly at 28,000 feet which ensures it does not interfere with the operations of air tankers and helicopters supporting firefighting operations on the Thomas Fire. At that altitude the team and drone can quickly transition and acquire any point that may be of interest on the fire. On average, it only takes about ten minutes to go from Fillmore all the way to Santa Barbara. In addition to its speed, the MQ-9 provides both an electro-optical and infrared camera which provides greater clarity on what the incident commander is viewing on the ground. These qualities combined provide speed, flexibility, and clarity to the people who need the information most.