Defense Department Imagery Information Aids Wildland Firefighters

03 September 2021

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USA – With continuing significant fire activity in the western United States this year, the Department of Defense (DoD) is delivering requested personnel, equipment, and facilities, to assist our Federal, State, and local partners fighting wildland fires.

One of the tools provided by the DoD is the Firefly system pilot program (Firefly), a capability from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  Firefly provides imagery information from satellites, drones, ground sensors, and cameras, giving wildfire agencies the location and shape of probable fires.  Assisting with fire mapping and tactical decision support, Firefly offers regular updates (up to 15 minute intervals) on areas of fire growth and activity, without cost or exposure of aircraft.

Firefly use with wildland firefighting began in 2019, when the State of California, including the California National Guard, conducted a successful first use of the system to assist with wildland fires within California.  In 2020, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) requested from DoD, through the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), nationwide Firefly support.  DoD approved the request, and this approach ensured coordination and prioritized coverage, depending on fire activity, and establishment of national priorities for detection and monitoring needs.

Recognizing the continuing value of the pilot program, DoD recently approved an extension of Firefly support, through September 2022.  The extension provides time for NIFC, in consultation with DoD, to develop a viable, long-term solution for future funding and operation of Firefly, under the management of NIFC.

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