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Yosemite firefighters bring in the drone to help battle blaze

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2013

Firefighters in Yosemite National Park have turned to drone technology to give them aerial views of the massive blaze in order to better plot and plan for new flare-ups.

The Rim Fire has grown to encompass 301 square miles, but firefighters said they've rounded the curve and are now in steady containment mode. They estimated on Wednesday that roughly 30 percent of the blaze has been brought under control, The Associated Press reported.

To keep an eye on new sparks, they've deployed a National Guard Predator drone. The unmanned craft is capable of flying for 22 hours straight — the largest ongoing drone mission for California firefighters in history, AP reported.

It's being navigated by the 163rd Wing of the California National Guard at March Air Reserve Base and operated from Victorville Airport, in Southern California, AP said. Officials say it's primarily flown over areas of the Rim Fire that are unpopulated. And, they add, any images captured by the drone are only being used as a firefighting tool.

"The drone is providing data directly back to the incident commander, allowing him to make quick decisions about which resources to deploy and where," said California fire spokesman Daniel Berlant, in the AP report.

Mr. Berlant said the blaze is "not nearly as active as it was last week," and firefighters expect to have it fully contained within the next three weeks.

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