Drones map wildfire hot spots that could smolder during the winter

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The McKinley Fire is now 95 percent contained and people have been able to return home and begin the clean-up.

Firefighters on the line at McKinley Fire, Photo credit Meshel, Engine crew, Alaska DOF.

But ash pits and other hot spots from the McKinley, and other fires in the Mat-Su, have the potential to burn underground over the winter, and then pop up again next Spring.

It’s something that happened after the Sockeye Fire in 2015.

Hand crews have gone through some of the burned area and felt for hot spots by hand, and when they find one, they put it out.

But for more remote areas that have burned, or areas that are at too of high risk of falling trees -- that’s where drone technology comes into play.

“The drones, or the unmanned aerial systems that we use, the UAS, it’s a huge critical part of fighting fire in Alaska,” Bryan Quimbey the Incident Commander trainee said.

Drones with infrared cameras help map the hot spots so crews can put them out if possible, or at least monitor them until next spring.

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