Florida Forest Service has a pilot who flies after lightning strikes to spot potential wildfires

SEBASTIAN, Fla. - A 180-acre wildfire is still burning in Sebastian. It's contained but not out.

Located a couple miles from Interstate 95, the Florida Forest Service is working hard to keep it away from the highway. The wildfire will take a few more days to extinguish.

"We wanted to make sure we got all the hotspots out because the wind could be coming out of the east and be pushing the smoke right on to I-95," says Melissa Yunas, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Florida Forest Service.

The area saw a lot of lightning strikes on Sunday. That's why Pilot Sanne Esque flew Monday afternoon for the Florida Forest Service.

"I look for small smokes usually in lightning fires," says Esque.

The Florida Forest Service says lightning fires can take up to five days to start up. Esque spent about 2 hours on Monday flying over 6 counties.

"There was a lot of prescribed burning going on today and also a lot of pile burnings so there were quite a few smokes to check today", says Esque.

She uses a map of the lightning strikes and relies on her vision to spot potential wildfires.

"I find quite a few fires," says Esque, "I probably find 10 to 15 fires a year."

If it's not an authorized burn, she radios to dispatch and the Forest Service checks it out on the ground.

"She can alert us while they're small and we can put them out while they're small then it doesn't threaten any homes," says Yunas.

Esque will also direct the Forest Service crew to a fire or hotspot. She plans to fly again Tuesday afternoon.


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