How California Guard MQ-9s Are Helping With Fire Response

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft flown by 163d Attack Wing pilot Lt. Col. Paul Brockmeier, with sensor operator Master Sgt. Anthony Martinez, views the smoky San Gabriel Mountains of southern California in transit to a fire mission in northern California, late August, 2020.

California Air National Guard MQ-9s have flown the length of the entire state helping to coordinate responses to more than 24 fires that have been burning in the past two months.

As of Sept. 28, there have been 7,982 total wildfires, burning more than 3.6 million acres and damaging or destroying 7,630 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

To help with the response, the 163rd Attack Wing at times had three Reapers in the air at a time, flying more than 70 sorties and more than 1,000 mission hours, according to a release. Their operations so far this fire season have more than doubled any previous year, said Maj. Lee Nichols, the senior intelligence officer in the 163rd Operations Group.