At long last, the stars aligned and we were able to get back out with a group of local firefighters, putting the wet stuff on the hot stuff. This time, it was Portland Fire and Rescue, conducting a controlled burn and wildland firefighting exercise on a two-acre parcel in the Baltimore Woods Natural Area.
Their goal for the day was to clear invasive species off of this property. A plant biologist who turned out to supervise the project told me that basically everything you can see in the video is invasive – and the few native plants growing in the area are resistant to fire, allowing firefighters to proceed with a literal scorched earth policy.
Still, fire crews had to be careful to control the spread of the flames, because this strip of land lies between a residential neighborhood and the bustling Port of Portland.
For a few minutes right at the start of the exercise, we were worried that this was going to be the greatest video that we never made. The pillar of smoke rising over the city brought out a news helicopter, which circled overhead at low altitude. You can see it for a brief instant in the opening montage.
Obviously, we weren't going to risk Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) operations with a manned aircraft in the immediate vicinity, but fortunately for us, it departed after just a couple of minutes and we were able to proceed as planned.
Actually, when our friend Dan Tilkin from KATU arrived later in the day, we were able to share some of our footage with him – which I suppose demonstrates the potential applications of this technology in news gathering, as well.
We made a particular effort to cover the basics in the video – discussing the details of how RQCX-3 “Raven” and the FLIR thermal imaging camera operate. This decision was based on the type of questions we typically receive by e-mail or on YouTube after we release a video like this.
Regular viewers may find these elements redundant with some of our earlier videos, but my thinking was that this video may find a wider audience than those earlier projects – based on the interest we saw in our first firefighting video.