Here is a list of the fires they worked last night:
- Pine Creek
- Cache Creek
- Powell SBW Complex
- Nineteen Mile
- Elevation Mountain
- Fort Complex
- Trinity Ridge
They work at night because that is when there is a greater difference between the heat of the fire and everything else. After they collect the data from thousands of feet over the fire, they transmit it by radio, Aircell, to computer servers on the ground where it is retrieved by Infrared Interpreters who analyze it and produce maps showing the perimeter of the heat that was detected, including spot fires outside the main perimeter and concentrations of intense heat, or areas with little or none. This is valuable information for the Planning and Operations Sections staffing the fire who make the information available for firefighters at their morning operational period briefings.
The USFS typically operates two IR planes during fire season, a Cessna Citation and a King Air B-200, but can call up a third, an old King Air 90, if things get really busy. They have also contracted with private vendors to provide IR services if the government aircraft can’t handle the workload.
More information about National Infrared Operations.