Fire managers use infrared to see through smoke

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Crews battling blazes around the state use all kinds of tools to fight the fires. From trees used to beat out flames and pulaskis to dig up hot spots, to more expensive equipment like helicopters and aircraft.

The State of Colorado has equipped airplanes with an infrared camera to help firefighters on the ground. Operators use the IR camera to follow lightning storms in Colorado to look for spot fires so they can be put out before they threaten anything. When things are slow in Colorado, they loan the plane out to other areas to help fight fires.

"So the primary mission up here is to help gather situational awareness for the fire managers and the fire teams so they know where the fire is. With thick smoke conditions we're able to look through the smoke and pinpoint where there fire is on the landscape," said Jesse Moreng, Multi-Mission Aircraft Manager for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

The camera drops out of the belly of the aircraft and then operators can use it to see through the smoke getting a more accurate picture of what the fire is doing.

"So that's our benefit, is to be able to see with these smoky conditions up here in Alaska. Be able to lay out and take IR images of the fire on the landscape," Moreng said.

Alaska fire officials have used the technology across the state to better understand fires and how to fight them.