Air National Guard provides aerial imagery support for Southern California fires
By Airman 1st Class Tristan D. Viglianco, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 14, 2017
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Air National Guard members from the 195th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group at Beale AFB are providing aerial imagery support to fire departments battling fires in Southern California.
The 163rd Attack Wing is providing video of the Thomas Fire to the 195th ISRG by utilizing an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft.
“We are using full-motion video from the MQ-9 to map the fire lines and look at fire expansion and progression,” said Maj. Nicholas Edwards, 222nd Intelligence Support Squadron director of incident awareness and assessment. “We have a liaison in place with all of the fire chiefs so we can provide them with up-to-date information.”
The imagery they are analyzing allows fire crews to be more efficient in combating and staying ahead of the fire.
“Having an asset in the air providing persistent observation is key to fulfilling the incident commander's needs and is crucial in identifying emerging active fire behavior,” said Master Sgt. Jason Tyler, 234th Intelligence Squadron chief of incident awareness and assessment. “It allows fire departments to get ahead of [the fire] and take appropriate actions such as evacuating areas which the fire may effect.”
The team of analysts at Beale are able to watch the video from the MQ-9 thanks to a team deployed to the affected region.
“Right now, we have a communication team down there who set up antennas and are relaying the signal back to us,” Edwards said. “The signal travels from the aircraft to the ground station and they send it to us via satellite dish.”
In addition to the observation and ground support, the analysts are also performing damage assessment.
“We help out with damage assessment by getting the number of destroyed structures out quickly using satellite imagery and comparing it to imagery from the sensored aircraft,” Tyler said. “Getting the numbers allows affected counties to get aid they need whether it's from a federal source or state agencies.”
According to CAL FIRE, the Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 950 structures and burned approximately 242,000 acres.
“We have been working this fire since last Tuesday (Dec. 5) and have been working 24-hour operations since then,” Edwards said. “We want to do everything we can. This is why we join the Guard to help out our community and our state.”