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At 2 p.m. Thursday, after Bob Kroutil of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Bioscience Division got a call for help, the ASPECT plane deployed to the wildfires of Southern California.
ASPECT (Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology), is a one-of-a-kind emergency response aircraft operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and supported by LANL.
It's the nation's only 24/7 emergency response aircraft with chemical plume mapping capability. It uses infrared technology to visualize invisible, odorless chemicals in the air.
During a telephone interview late Friday from Long Beach, Kroutil explained that the aircraft is providing chemical analysis support to the EPA, Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.
"We are looking for potential chemical vapors that might be emanating from structure fires," Kroutil said. "We are supporting the EPA and providing them with data analysis and assessment of chemical data and they are forwarding it to the JFO (Joint Field Operations) in Pasadena, which is operated by FEMA.
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