Oregon to use radio-controlled helicopter on fires

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The Oregon Department of Forestry is putting together a radio-controlled helicopter to give firefighters a better look at what wildfires are up to in tight smoky places a conventional scout plane cannot go.

It will be equipped with infrared and video cameras and a GPS locator, and should be ready to go around mid-July.

At just five feet long, the helicopter is not big enough to take over tasks normally done by manned aircraft.

Fire prevention specialist Brian Ballou says the idea is to give firefighters an extra set of eyes to help incident commanders evaluate conditions in otherwise inaccessible areas of a fire before sending in firefighters.

Financed by a federal grant, the helicopter is expected to cost about $5,000 once it is fully equipped.