Thursday, August 09, 2012

Spotting Wildfires By Air In Glades County

How The Forest Service Spots Fires From The Air
MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Along with the rain came lightning. Lightning ignitions start wild fires that may smolder for days before they start to show visible signs. 

Scouting lightning ignitions is the responsibility of the fixed-wing spotter pilot from the Florida Forest Service. “Using a lightning map, I make a flight plan to concentrate on positive lightning strikes. It’s commonly believed that the positive strikes, which are 5-10 times stronger than the negative strikes, are responsible for most forest fires.” says Sanne Esque, Airplane Pilot, Florida Forest Service.

Sanne continues, “As I fly I have up to 25 miles of visibility in our Forest Service aircraft. It’s a very efficient way to spot the beginnings of a smoldering wildfire.” Sanne covers 6 counties along her route and radios to FFS dispatch the location of the wildfires. FFS dispatch relays the information to State Firefighters in dozers and brush trucks and local fire departments to extinguish the fire.

Fixed-wing pilots are an essential element on wildfire scenes. These airplanes are used to scout-out wildfires and then serve as “eyes in the sky” for firefighters on the ground. Smoke impedes ground crews so the pilot will communicate to the firefighters information such as, the location of houses, sheds and vehicles in relation to the direction of the fire. 

The pilot can also locate roads and trails for access to the fire and also fences, and the gates to get through them. They can make the firefighters aware of ditches, flag ponds, power lines, and many other obstacles. The pilot can see the fuel types that the fire is moving into and thus assist the Incident Commander in determining the initial attack priorities and the necessity for possibly ordering more resources.

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