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DoD activates MQ-9s for imagery support in wildland fire fighting

A male Airman faces the back of an MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft underneath an aircraft sunshade. The Airman is holding a walkie talkie in his right hand, and close to his face. The Airman's back is to the camera and his front is lit by a bright light. Four maintenance Airmen are working on the aircraft.

Airman 1st Class Michael, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief speaks to a pilot via walkie-talkie before takeoff at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 26, 2020. Aircrews provided real-time video in an effort to map fire perimeters and alert first responders of the spread and potential impact of the fires in California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

The backs of many Airmen sitting in chairs are towards the camera. The Airmen are facing an Airman presenter and a slideshow.

Airmen gather for a briefing to discuss responsibilities related to relief efforts at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 24, 2020. As the West Coast wildfires blazed, sorties were flown to provide fire departments in affected areas with real-time footage of fire containment efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lauren Silverthorne)

Two male Airmen in flight suits sit in an MQ-9 Reaper ground cockpit with papers and a phone between them. They are wearing a headset and are focused on the screens displaying flight information.

Capt. Justin, 489th Attack Squadron pilot instructor and Tech. Sgt. Jabrin, 489th ATKS sensor operator, fly an MQ-9 Reaper for imagery support in wildland firefighting from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 26, 2020. This is the first time the active-duty, 432nd WG/432nd AEW has provided aircraft for a Homeland Defense mission and launched its first Defense Support of Civil Authorities sortie under U.S. Northern Command Sept. 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

An MQ-9 Reaper maintainer checks the front nose of an MQ-9 during a preflight inspection at night.

Senior Airman Orion, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief goes through a pre-flight check before takeoff at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 25, 2020. The 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing provided aircraft for a Homeland Defense mission and launched its first Defense Support of Civil Authorities sortie under U.S. Northern Command Sept. 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

Airmen at the 432nd Wing recently participated in Department of Defense support efforts to fight the California wildland fires.

At the request of the National Interagency Fire Center and upon approval by the DoD, U.S. Northern Command activated the 432nd to provide Incident Awareness and Assessment support using the MQ-9 aircraft to aid civil authorities in California. This is the first time active-duty aircraft from the 432nd have supported in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity.

Operating in strict accordance with all federal laws and governmental policies, the MQ-9 aircrews were able to provide real-time video to map fire perimeters and alert first responders of the spread and potential impact of the fires, proximity to infrastructure or buildings, and containment.

“The 432nd’s ‘near-real-time’ support to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) enhanced both agencies’ ability to move limited resources quickly to protect lives, save property, and be postured for next day operations,” said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, commander, First Air Force, Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH). “Our hearts go out to the many people affected by these devastating fires. Supporting the men and women on the front line, as they fight fires and save lives, is a humbling experience.” 

Beginning Sept. 26 and concluding Oct. 17, 2020, aircrews stationed at Creech AFB clocked more than 120 hours of flight time and video capture of the Glass, August Complex, Bear and Zogg fires.

The Incident Awareness and Assessment missions provided appropriate local, state and federal authorities situational awareness of what was occurring on the ground in regards to the wildfires.

AFNORTH, U.S. Northern Command’s U.S. Air Force air component command, is the DoD operational lead for the mission.