High-tech firefighting plane visits Craig

High-tech firefighting plane visits Craig

17 March 2015

published by www.craigdailypress.com

USA — Moffat County officials could have an easier time keeping tabs on wildfires this year thanks to new high-tech airplanes that will take to the skies during fire season.

The $12 million purchase of two multi-mission aircraft was approved last year by the Colorado legislature, and one of the planes paid a visit to the Craig Moffat Airport Monday morning as part of an informational tour.

The planes are specially outfitted with thermal imaging technology for fire detection and are capable of transmitting color and infrared images to authorities on the ground over a statewide computer system.

“I can see a lot of use for this aircraft,” said Sgt. Todd Wheeler, Fire Management Officer for the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office. “This is going to cover a larger area that people on the ground will never see.”

The planes can relay real-time information about fire starts, including the exact coordinates, perimeter size and threat level. Infrared sensors are able to see through smoke to reveal where fires are burning the hottest.

“We average anywhere from 300 to 2,100 lightning strikes per day (during the peak season),” Wheeler said. “We’re getting to only maybe 1 percent of those lightning fires. This will help us find them… It will also help us determine the emergency of that fire, whether it’s something that needs to be addressed later or needs attention now.”

The planes are based in Centennial Airport in the Front Range, but can reportedly fly anywhere in the state within an hour.

“It’s primary mission is detection,” said Rocco Snart with the Colorado Division of Wildfire Prevention and Control. “We think it will be hugely helpful, especially in Northwest Colorado.”

The planes can also be used in search and rescue missions and other applications.

“This is going to be really good for Moffat County,” Commissioner Chuck Grobe said.

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