The Twain Harte Fire Department (THFD) with support from the Twain Harte Area Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Unit was recently requested for night operations to locate and gather vital intelligence on the location and spread of a local Wildfire. The CERT UAS Unit rapidly responded to the incident and immediately received a briefing and mission requests from Incident Commander. CERT UAS Unit then launched one of the THFD Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with thermal-sensing capabilities and flew from the Incident Command Post to the last known fire location. Deep in the canyon with significant ground access challenges and completely obscured by smoke, the team located the fire via thermal imaging. The imagery, geospatial information and real-time video was displayed to the firefighters, providing vital intelligence to the Incident Commander (IC) by showing the precise fire location, size, intensity, and spread.
These are two images of the mission taken at the same time that highlight the power of combining thermal imaging with traditional visible images. Image #1 shows an aerial view of the fire unable to see any of the fire or the perimeter due to smoke. Image #2 is the same shot from the thermal sensor on the UAV, enabling it to penetrate through the smoke and give accurate fire size, rates of spread and location of the fire.
This mission enhanced firefighter safety by precisely locating fire perimeter and identifying better access points for crews to safely engage the fire, as well as providing improved situational awareness to the IC. The Twain Harte Area CERT UAS Unit was ordered via a mutual aid request at no cost to the requesting agency. We at THFD value supporting our cooperative agreements within Tuolumne County.
THFD and CERT UAS Unit are committed to the safe, coordinated, and effective use of unmanned aerial vehicles for improving situational awareness in wildfire operations. The THFD/CERT UAS Unit is an FAA approved emergency response UAS Program and follows all requirements and regulations for safe and coordinated aerial operations in unconflicted airspace under control of the IC.