Drone makes first flight to help fight northern Arizona wildfire

Jun 3, 2019, 11:10 AM | Updated: Jun 18, 2019, 12:18 pm
(Twitter Photo/@Coconino NF)...
(Twitter Photo/@Coconino NF)
(Twitter Photo/@Coconino NF)

PHOENIX – A drone has joined nearly 150 firefighters who are battling a blaze in a national forest in Arizona, a first-time deployment on an active wildfire, officials said.

The drone was sent into action with 144 personnel at the Maroon Fire in the Coconino National Forest over the weekend. The fire has consumed about 7,000 acres since May 16 and was 20% contained Monday.

The fire is burning about 18 miles north of Flagstaff, feeding on trees, grasses and brush in a cinder basin that authorities said had been an artillery training site during World War II.

They worried about the potential for unexploded ordnance, including ammunition, in the area.

Firefighters had been setting small, controlled fires to keep the larger fire more contained. Then the drone was engaged for more defensive ignitions Saturday.

Burnout operations began May 28.

The National Forest Service has been testing drones, but the Maroon Fire incident management team will be the first to officially order and operate this specialized equipment, according to a press release.

The agency planned to use drones for air operations on wildfires more often, citing safety of DC-10 tanker pilots and more efficient firefighting.

The National Weather Service bureau in Flagstaff was expecting warm, breezy conditions in the area later this week. That could hinder firefighters’ efforts.

The Maroon Fire started from a lightning strike.

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