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These 360 Drone Photos of the California Wildfires Are Devastating

An interactive map of the Carr Fire shows the landscape from a drone's eye view.
Screenshot via Hangar

A tire blowout in Redding, California sparked a fire last month that would rip through northern California for weeks. The Carr Fire has already claimed seven lives so far, as it tears through more than 145,000 acres of northern California communities. It’s become the sixth most destructive fire in the state’s history.

Newly released 360-degree drone photography of the fire’s path and aftermath reveals a charred, haunting landscape from an aerial perspective.


The photos were collected by licensed UAV pilots with help from Menlo Park Fire District, Alameda County Sheriff, Contra Costa Sheriff, and other agencies.

Even though the images are meant to be more scientific documentation than art, the results of this project are beautiful and emotional. The remains of a housing development just east of the Sacramento River shows some homes still standing, seemingly untouched from the outside, while the next-door neighbors have been razed to the ground. In many spots, pools are the only structures left in patches of land where the fires tore through whole neighborhoods.


Drone pilot Greg Crutsinger, who volunteered his drone-piloting services to the Alameda County Sheriff's department in October for the Coffey Park fire in northern California, helped produce these 360-degree drone shots and corresponding map. As part of the Coffey Park project, he took more than 10,000 photos from the drone, which would fly straight up from a point on the ground, take a variety of high-definition photos with the camera in a variety of positions, and then send the images to the cloud.

Scientists and fire departments can use the data collected by drone to study how wildfires spread, and protect communities against them in future. Utility companies can use the data to help inform how to restore service to burned areas. But most people aren’t cleared to fly near these fires: The FAA issued temporary flight restrictions over the area of the Coffey Park fire in the fall, when the fires were most severe. Crutsinger was one of the few allowed to take these images.

The full map of interactive photos can be found here.