Aerial Attack Against Wildfires done with Drones in Grizzly Creek

A containment line was created earlier this week on the southern edge of Grizzly Creek in Colorado. The job was usually done by helicopters flying over fiery terrain and continuing the aerial ignition operation. Now, drones have taken over the operation, allowing more precise work and reducing risks to helicopters. 

Kelly Boyd, the firefighter piloting the drone, had dropped chemical balls called ‘Dragon Balls’ into the creek. In what the firefighters call a burnout operation, these balls then ignited the scrub oak, piñon, and sage. The flames moved further to burn down any timber or foliage on the creek’s entire southeast edge.

The entire operation carried out in Grizzly Creek helped in the containment of the wildfires by 61%. The newly burned barrier was also connected to two other containment lines, which prevented the fire from going down any further south.

Similar kinds of operations where aerial ignition was required were earlier done by helicopters where they didn’t have any control over where they were dropping the fireballs. The work was very imprecise, but the new firefighting strategy put together by the Bureau of Land Management and adopted by the Forest Service and National Interagency Fire Center has allowed drones to take over the job here.

The drones dropping the Dragon eggs aren’t just simply dropping them to an exact location. An additional aspect of this is the gizmo attached to the drone, which injects the eggs with glycol before dropping them. Due to this, the eggs can burn for a minute after they have hit the ground.

Further, drones have allowed the personnel to work on the operation to scan the edges of the fire. Hotspots can be easily figured out because of this feature, and firefighters can decide to put out eggs, which may be hopping the containment line.

Fire season is currently going on, and with a pandemic, we can’t afford to risk more lives and helicopters over our heads. It makes the need for drones during aerial attacks even direr. They can help in systematically controlling wildfires and reduce the chances of the ground crew’s requirement.

On Monday, the firefighting team working in Grizzly Creek dropped the Dragon Eggs on the ground. It was supposed to be a three-day mission where the crew would light fires on top of the ridge and then allow the flames to go down the creek bowl towards the basin above Bair Ranch.

Such a method is adopted because controlled fires are easier to tame than those controlled by the wind. An entire southern barrier has now been created, so the actual wildfire is in control.

The crew has given insights on the benefits of firefighting with drones. In an otherwise scenario, multiple people would have to put into work to light up those fires and identify the risky hotspots. Even though the entire equipment cost goes above $25000, the operation is better than the alternate option.

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Rosa Margaret

Rosa Margaret is a Senior Architect who plays a role of designing, planning and developing different projects for her firm. She is highly skilled in analyzing blueprints, sketches, and models for environmental and safety issues. She loves to do gardening in her free time which is quite evident in her exquisitely maintained backyard.

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