My Drone Just Helped Put Out a Forest Fire

Tonight my drone just helped the Massachusetts State Police locate a forest fire.

The Middlesex Fells is a large nature preserve near where I live. There are a couple of lakes that are very pretty, so this afternoon I took my quadcopter drone to the Fells to get some pretty sunset footage. As I was setting up the drone just a few minutes before sunset, I saw smoke in the sky. I called the State Police to report a likely forest fire. The operator took my name and number and thanked me for the report, and after I got off the phone I started flying the drone.

A few minutes later, the police called me back. The officer asked if I knew more specifically where the fire was located (the Fells is thousands of acres in size and spans four different towns, and parts of it are pretty remote and are only accessible by foot). I told the officer, “I don’t, but I can find out!” I explained that I was flying a drone and could use it to locate the fire more specifically. With the officer on speakerphone I took the drone up to about 100 meters and looked around, and on my video feed monitor I could clearly see where the smoke was originating, right between the southern and middle of the area’s three lakes. I told the officer, and he then gave my information to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, which operates the park and manages the land, who then directed their firefighters to the area I identified.

 Frame grab from video showing forest fire in the Middlesex Fells Reservation outside of Boston, Sept. 22, 2014.

Frame grab from video showing forest fire in the Middlesex Fells Reservation outside of Boston, Sept. 22, 2014.

I was glad to be in the right place at the right time (with the right equipment!) to be able to help. This experience is an example of how emerging technologies like drones can be of enormous benefit in all manner of applications.