The following is from a news release issued by California Wing:
High-Tech Fire Detection Mission May Be in CAWG’s Future
FRESNO, Calif. – In a state ravaged by wildfires, the California Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), is cross-training this week with the Arizona Wing of CAP at the request of the National Guard. The mission: Use some high-tech equipment in CAP aircraft to spot fires started by lightning strikes. It’s hoped that this can head off forest fires in the future.
Thundershowers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California regularly produce numerous lighting strikes. Sometimes those strikes start small fires in trees, that smolder for a few days. Some of these burning trees start massive forest fires. To detect these hot spots, the National Guard has been flying aircraft to detect and report to the United States Forest Service so that they can extinguish them at an early stage. The National Guard looked at Civil Air Patrol capability and wanted to see if using CAP aircraft was a viable option for this mission.
To that end, the California Wing teamed up with the Arizona Wing, which flew a specially equipped Cessna 182 to the Fresno airport this week. The aircraft, equipped with a TASE™ electro optical infrared imaging system, is from the Deer Valley Composite Squadron 302 near Phoenix, Arizona. Due to its proximity to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the base for the trial period of training is the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
On Friday, Maj. Pat DeWees, from the Merced County Composite Squadron 147, trained alongside the crew from the Arizona Wing. DeWees is a Green Flag Mission Coordinator and Sensor Operator. The training with Arizona Mission Pilot Maj. Chris Shehi and Sensor Operator Maj. Roger Yaeger was productive as DeWees and the crew found a hot spot in the forest, more than likely started by lightning. Immediately, the team reported the fire to the Forest Service.
The CAWG Emergency Services Team is hoping this cross-training will provide enough information to see if this will be a viable option to the National Guard. The Civil Air Patrol in California could be an essential asset in the fight against wildfires in the state. Every tool is needed to prevent loss of life, protection of property and economic damage.