Orange County Approves $4.5 Million for Aircraft to Monitor, Help Predict Wildfires’ Spread

A water-dropping fire helicopter is framed through a burnt structure during the Canyon Fire in Anaheim Hills. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

A water-dropping fire helicopter is framed through a burnt structure during the Canyon Fire in Anaheim Hills. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Orange County has approved a 150-day pilot program for a plane that will monitor wildfires, providing incident commanders with real-time information on fire conditions.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday accepted a $4.5 million state grant that will fund the program, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Orange County Fire Authority will oversee operation of the dual-prop plane, which will be flown by a contractor, Courtney Aircraft.

Firefighters will have access to video shot by the aircraft’s infrared cameras within five minutes of its arrival over a site.

“This new tool will immediately tell us the direction of the fire, so we can safely and rapidly evacuate residents, as well as position fire crews in precise locations to better protect life, property and infrastructure during a wildfire,” OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said in a statement.

Images obtained by the aircraft will inform the data-based computer models developed by the WIFIRE Lab at University of California, San Diego, according to the newspaper.

Board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett said the plane will “bring state-of-the-art, military-style technology and intelligence to Orange County so we can advance our response and deployment efficiency.”

The aircraft will also provide mutual aid to Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura and San Diego counties.

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