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So far this year’s wildfire season in California is on track to match last year’s– which was the worst on record. That’s created a need for more manpower– not just on the ground but in the skies above them. Vice New’s Michael Anthony Adams embedded with Firewatch Cobra—a team of pilots, mechanics, and data specialists organized by the US Forest Service.

Together, they man a Vietnam-era combat chopper retrofitted with hi-tech computers, cameras, and infrared sensors hovering thousands of feet above the flames. Acting as a communication relay station in the sky, the Firewatch team helps coordinate the more than 40 helicopters and other aircraft called in to help.

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