... The 4,000 firefighters battling the giant 12-day-old Rim Fire in the Sierra Nevada that has now burned more than 192,000 acres added a California National Guard Predator drone to their arsenal Wednesday to give them almost immediate views of any portion of the flames chewing through rugged forests in and around Yosemite National Park.
Three firefighters sustained minor injuries while battling the blaze on Wednesday, bringing the total number of firefighters injured to six out of the 4,200 staff members who have been working on the fire for the past 11 days. ...
... The MQ-1 unmanned aircraft, which is being remotely piloted hundreds of miles away, quickly alerted fire bosses to a new flare-up they otherwise wouldn't have immediately seen.
The plane, the size of a small Cessna, will remain over the burn zone for up to 22 hours at a time, allowing fire commanders to monitor fire activity, determine the fire's direction of movement, the extent of containment and confirm new fires ignited by lightning or flying embers. Previously, ground commanders relied on helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours.
While unmanned aircraft have mapped past fires, use of the Predator will be the longest sustained mission by a drone in California to broadcast information to firefighters in real time. Officials were careful to point out the images are being used only to aid in the effort to contain the fire. ...