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Drone assists on Arizona firefighting effort

The National Forest Service continued testing drone technology this month deploying a drone to assist on the Maroon Fire in Coconino National Forest.

The drone deployment was a first for the National Forest Service, deploying a drone into an active fire for the first time to assist approximately 150 fire personnel fight a fire that has been burning since May 16 that has consumed over 7,000 acres of forest, remaining only 20% contained at the time of writing.

The Maroon Fire was the first time the National Forest Service deployed a drone into an active fire. Photo courtesy National Forest Service.

The Coconino National Forest were the fire burns currently, is approximately 18 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona in an area that is believed to have been a World War II artillery training site. Due to fears of potential left over ordinance, the drone was deployed ahead of firefighting troops in the area to conduct controlled defensive burn ignitions.

In a press release from the The National Forest Service, the agency announced that although it has been testing drones, the deployment into an active fire scene by the Maroon Fire incident management team was the first to officially order and operate this specialized equipment.

The agency further stated that it planned to use drones for air operations on wildfires more often, citing safety of DC-10 tanker pilots and more efficient firefighting.

The Maroon Fire started from a lightning strike.

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