Monday, September 28, 2020
Home Lead Story Remote Sensors on Earth, Air, Water to Alert Authorities of Firefighting

Remote Sensors on Earth, Air, Water to Alert Authorities of Firefighting

More than 100 cameras provide a view of 60 percent of the company's service area in Southern and Central California

Wildfires are often discovered by aircraft pilots, drivers or spotters in observation towers. Increasingly, remote sensors — on the ground, in the air and on board satellites — are alerting authorities when fires break out, and experts say technology will increasingly be a part of the future of firefighting.

A blaze that raged last August in a canyon near Los Angeles threatened vital communications links. Remote cameras gave firefighters crucial information to save the installations, said Troy Whitman of Southern California Edison, an electric utility company.

Whitman serves as a liaison with firefighting agencies, and he shares information from a new camera network that Edison installed throughout much of its service area. Those 13 million hectares are challenging, he said, “mountains, deserts, very remote areas where fires may not be detected for minutes, sometimes even days in the forest if it’s a lightning strike.”

firefighting, remote sensors
Spotting fires from the Earth, Air and Space. VOA

Electronic lookouts

More than 100 cameras provide a view of 60 percent of the company’s service area in Southern and Central California. More cameras are on their way, all monitored in an operations center in suburban Los Angeles, where remote spotters watch computer monitors and meteorologists track weather data from remote sensing stations.

Fires up and down the U.S. West Coast are getting fiercer, and 10 of California’s 20 most destructive blazes have occurred since 2015. A California report last month, “Wildfires and Climate Change,” said the state’s fire season has become nearly year-round, and one-quarter of the California’s population lives in fire-prone areas.

“Climate is changing,” said Brian Chen, who manages Edison’s wildfire mitigation efforts. “We’ve had many years of drought leading up to this, which has caused millions of trees across the state to die or be weakened because of disease,” he added. “We’ve also had a history of fire suppression policy, which has not kept our forests healthy,” he said.

More residents are also living closer to wilderness areas, in places like Paradise, a once idyllic northern California town destroyed by wildfire in November. At least 85 people died and 14,000 homes were destroyed by the so-called Camp Fire, which investigators announced Wednesday was sparked by the transmission lines of another utility, Pacific Gas and Electric.

At least half of the state’s most destructive 20 fires have been caused by power lines or electrical equipment, and spread because they started in isolated areas that were difficult for firefighters to reach. California fire officials say electrical mishaps account for a smaller proportion of all wildfires, and blame others on careless debris burning, out-of-control campfires, arson or smoking.

Southern California Edison is upgrading its infrastructure, replacing bare transmission lines with insulated cables. Pacific Gas and Electric also plans to install new cameras and weather stations. Both companies face lawsuits over recent wildfires, and Pacific Gas and Electric filed for bankruptcy in January, facing billions of dollars in claims.

Destructive fires are also tracked by NASA, the U.S. space agency, which also monitors the health of our planet using “aircraft observations … from manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft,” said Vince Ambrosia of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He says the main focus today, however, is on satellite data retrieved by NASA and its partners, including the European Space Agency, and shared with the public and global firefighters. The information helps before, during and after a wildfire.

“We can do active fire detection,” said Natasha Stavros of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We can also do observations of the type of vegetation that’s there,” she said, assessing moisture content and how readily vegetation will burn.

firefighting, remote sensors
FILE – Homes leveled by the Camp Fire line Valley Ridge Drive in Paradise, Calif., Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

She says an instrument called GEDI has been sent to the International Space Station to measure levels of biomass, the trees and brush that provide fuel for fires, by monitoring how forests store and release carbon. Other satellites track the height of flames and the spread of smoke and other pollutants.

ALSO READ: Scientists Find New Ways of Tracking Objects by Combining DNA of Dust Particles

Airborne and space-based sensors provide real-time data, and NASA and its partner agencies have built a “long-term collection library … going back to the 1980s to look at transitioning stages of wildfires throughout our last 50 years or so,” Ambrosia said.

Experts say that fire is part of nature’s ecosystem, but fire season is getting longer and fires more intense, and remote sensing helps firefighters deal with the challenge. The last month’s California report on wildfires recommends increased use of advanced imaging from the air and space, artificial intelligence to enhance data analysis, and a more comprehensive approach to fire prevention and response. (VOA)

STAY CONNECTED

19,135FansLike
362FollowersFollow
1,776FollowersFollow

Most Popular

7 Money Tips to Travel for Hard-line Backpackers

Travel is something that every millennial love to do, but most of the time it can also turn out to be very costly especially...

People Neglect Fear of COVID as Food Orders Outrush

If you are among those who are thrilled to once again see food delivery boys all around or plan to visit a restaurant and...

Demand for Indian Animation Witnesses a Substantial Growth

With demand for Indian animated content growing among global audiences, especially with children who are a significant consumer group for animations like cartoon shows,...

Treatment and Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Heart

From the time the first Coronavirus case was recorded in China, to India's numbers crossing four million, COVID-19 has millions of lives under its...

The Vogue Change of Footwear in India

Covid-19 has changed consumer buying patterns across segments, ranging from FMCG, personal care, apparel to footwear. The change has also led manufacturers to take...

Daughters’ Day: Entertainment Industry Showers Their Little Girls With Love

From megastar Amitabh Bachchan to Ajay Devgn and Ayushmann Khurrana, several stars took to social media to shower their daughters with love on the...

When “Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein” Released, it was Flop But Slowly Became Iconic: Madhavan

When Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein released in 2001, the film failed to create sparks at the box office. What remained with the viewers...

This is How NASA is Preparing Astronauts for Next Moonwalks in 2024

As NASA plans to return humans to the Moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis programme, the agency has already started preparing astronauts...

Recent Comments