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Aera in the Community Aug 13, 2020

Drone goes above and beyond in the Mendota Wildlife Refuge fire

The drone, donated by Aera, is an invaluable tool for Fresno County firefighters

Drone footage of the wildfire near Mendota helps show firefighters on the ground where the blaze is headed.

Drone footage of the wildfire near Mendota helps show firefighters on the ground where the blaze is headed.

A drone donated to Fresno County by Aera Energy helped firefighters battle a fast-moving wildfire July 25 in the Mendota Wildlife Refuge.

“This fire started small like most fires do and quickly grew from strong 10-15 mph winds coming out of the north that day,” said Seth Brown, a Fresno County battalion chief and public information officer. “We were able to launch the drone during the fire fight. It proved to be very valuable.”

Guided by remote control, the camera-bearing drone allowed firefighters to see past the front lines. Its  aerial view showed firefighters where the fire was headed and their best access route. Large, fast-moving fires often prevent crews from gaining access to the fire because flames and smoke hinder their ability to see around it.

“Also, in this particular area, some of the roads do not show on the maps, so being able to see ahead of the fire is very valuable,” Brown said. “We also monitored fire behavior and the fire’s edge with the aerial view the drone provided.”

The fire burned 1,100 acres. More than 20 firefighters battled the blaze for 12 hours before containing it.

See what firefighters saw in these two video clips captured by the drone during the fire.

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