Using Data To Fight Wildfires: An Inside Look - InformationWeek

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9/3/2015
07:06 AM
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Using Data To Fight Wildfires: An Inside Look

Data gathering and analysis are now part of an array of tools used to fight wildfires in the US. Here's what it all looks like.
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(Image: Smokeybear.com)

This has been a record-setting year for the area on the ground lost to wildfires in the United States. Nearly 8 million acres (3,237,485.12 hectares) have burned in seven states. To battle forest fires, more than 20,000 firefighters have worked with an array of tools, from driptorches and pulaskis to bulldozers and aerial tankers.

Within that array of tools, data gathering and analysis play increasingly important roles.

For firefighters, the information that comes from data analysis is critical for a number of reasons. Real-time data alerts firefighters to ignitions at an earlier, more easily winnable stage. The information gives them insight into what a fire is doing underneath a thick layer of smoke. Analysis of the terrain into which a fire is moving offers guidance about what the fire is likely to do next. Modeling software that uses a variety of data sources gives firefighters critical, and potentially life-saving, knowledge about how a certain type of forest fire is likely to behave so that equipment and personnel can be properly positioned to combat the blaze.

If your last thought about wildfires was the last time you saw Smokey Bear on a sign, it's time you updated your information. Our image gallery will help you do just that, and remind you of the firefighters who have lost their lives this year, and every year, battling our nation's wildfires.

Has wildfire had an impact on your life or business this year? Are you involved in fighting wildfires or responding to natural disasters? Let us know your thoughts about the latest trends in data analysis -- and please, stay safe out there.

[Data modeling tools and fire simulators guide firefighters on the frontlines. Read Data, Analytics Help Fight Forest Fires.]

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2015 | 11:19:30 AM
Re: The HotShots still work hard to earn their grub
Curt,

I am guessing that's why we are hearing all those stories about Militiarized Police here in America.

Its beyond stunning how heavily armed our cops are currently!!!

I am sure automated Fire-prevention solutions will achieve a considerable degree of success here.

As for as the actual Fire-fighting duties ;yes an automated will end up doing a lot of Good work here as well.

 

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2015 | 6:30:03 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
Curt,

That's exactly what sums up the Common Thinking all across America-Aesthetics or more colloquially put-"It should look Good".

Even if that thing has Zero Functionality(as in the case of all those Lawns which the State Government is forcing homeowners to rip it out bigtime now in California).

Its a question I have been meaning to ask some Senior Pros previously -Why Does'nt California recycle Sewage Water(after treating it obviously) for Landscaping/Agriculture use?

Its being done extremely successfully in Water-Scarce regions globally like Israel,the UAE,India and Singapore.

Singapore is very much the Pioneer in this space through their NEWater Program.

What most people don't know is that over 35% of the Tap Water that ordinary Singaporeans consume is actually their own Sewage Water after it has been through the whole Filteration,Treatment Program.

Why can't California do something similar instead fighting with other neighbouring states for the Colorado's water or just pumping Ground-water like crazy (which is causing Ground to sink a few meters every year) use The Sewage Water from LA,San Francisco,Orange County ,etc for starters for Agriculture today.

This is the alarming result of Pumping more Groundwater out than is naturally sustainable currently-www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-08-19/california-sinking-as-farmers-suck-groundwater-dry

 

The only one Active Water Recycling project I have seen is the one where Waste water from Oil Industry use gets treated and is then used to Grow Almonds in San Joaquin Valley and Kern County-business.financialpost.com/news/energy/california-farms-turn-to-big-oils-drilling-wastewater-to-grow-crops

&


economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/pact-with-devil-california-farmers-use-oil-firms-water/articleshow/47933770.cms

I kinda feel using Treated Sewage Water is maybe Healthier than Almonds Grown in water laced with Benzene & Acetone currently?

Regards

Ashish.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2015 | 6:10:21 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
Brian,

I really respect and appreciate your statement here-if the firefighters say that evacuation is important -- it is important.

And No,I am trying to say that Homeowners should take on 70 foot tall Flames themselves but if they put in some more Investment into their existing homes they could do a whole lot more to ensure Fires don't burn as madly as they do now.

Especially when it comes to Providing Fires outlets as well as lack of fuel(for burning) these are both issues entirely in the hands of Homeowners.


If the same Homeowners can spend Thousands of Dollars on a Granite Kitchen Top or a fancy new Car every 2-3 years in the Driveway (routine in California today) ;why can't they spend some money on taking care of their home from Forest Fires?

Sounds like a No-Brainer to me personally.

 

 
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
9/14/2015 | 3:52:00 PM
another data set
Another data set is the ash generated by the passing wildfires. It's been settling on the polar ice caps and making the ice hold more heat, thereby melting faster than scientists previously predicted. I'd be interested to know how much more ash and soot has been pushed into the atmosphere from this huge spike in wildfires. It makes it not just about homes in California, but has enough far reaching effects to reach around the entire globe.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2015 | 1:18:43 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
Curt, in fact, I just thought about the proximity with the Palace after Ashish's mention of the paparazzis, which I don't believe have anything to do with the drone restriction in Regent's Park. I agree more with your idea. If everyone is going to fly their drones in places like a public park it could cause problems to the ones trying to have a quiet picnic in a green urban area. Maybe things will change when there are some more regulations, or flying drones becomes a responsible activity. Until then, I will try to find out the reason/s behind the restriction, so we can actually have a discussion based on facts. I will let you know what my Sherlock Holms self found out. :) By the way, Sherlock's hone on Baker Street is just two blocks from there. :D -Susan
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
9/8/2015 | 10:33:33 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
@Ashish, I think that a big part of the reason that more homeowners don't create fire-breaks is aesthetics. If you plow up a workable fire-break and remove all the fuel from around the house, you're left with a wide swath of dirt. If you have time and access to a bulldozer you can do that when fire threatens, but most homeowners (and homeowner associations) don't want to look at a fire break all the time.

Interestingly enough, I think that some of the landscaping options that are becoming common because of the drought in California will turn out to be more fire-resistant than the earlier all-green landscaping.

This is one of the things we face in Florida every few years when we have an active fire season. People say they love the "natural look" -- just not in their own neighborhood, which they want to look like the 14th hole at Augusta National Golf Course.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
9/8/2015 | 10:28:04 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
@Susan, proximity to the Palace is certainly an issue, but I was really talking about any activity that requires open space in the middle of one of the world's larger cities. Whether we're talking about flying a quad-copter or letting your dog run off a leash, any activity that requires a large, relatively un-regulated area is going to be challenging in an urban setting.

Or maybe not. I'll admit that I don't live in a large urban area, so this might be one of the incorrect presumtions that exist among those of us who live "out in the sticks."
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
9/8/2015 | 10:24:35 AM
Re: The HotShots still work hard to earn their grub
@Ashu001, the military drones could provide some instrumentation, though I'm not aware of one that would make a great air-tanker. That could certainly change.

And I think a big reason why we don't see more active-duty military deployed in fire fighting has a great deal to do with our constitutional (and long-term legal) constraints on our military being active on U.S. soil. With the exception of the Corp of Engineers, it's complicated to involve the military in civilian matters.

And I'm not sure how California politics works with the whole picture. Many of the firefighters are employees of (or contracted with) the Forest Service. I'm frankly amazed at how well the Forest Service, National Park Service, and other federal agencies work together on fire issues: A lot of the jurisdictional issues I see in other activities don't seem to be big actors in this, and that's a very good thing.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
9/8/2015 | 10:18:36 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
@Brian, I've seen a number of courses crop up to teach drone operation. I took an intensive one-day course in the desert outside Las Vegas before I got my first quad-copter and I spend a fair amount of my time at the controls practicing maneuvers. I want to be a safe operator because I think that's the way to enjoy multi-rotor copters for the long term. And I have to admit, I do like the video and still images I get from my quad!
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
9/8/2015 | 4:30:12 AM
Re: Drones and wildfires
@Ashu001, that is a great point and I am in favor of homeowners to take on an active role in the protection against natural disasters. This includes investing in automated systems that will be activated during a natural disaster.

If it is a manual system a number of dilemmas are created. For instance, if a homeowner has invested $10,000 into a manual protection system it is still no match against the economies of scale that firefighters have at their side (the investment, expertise, sensors everywhere, etc.), if the firefighters say that evacuation is important -- it is important.

The benefits are created if automated systems are in place, the systems become complementary to the efforts of firefighters and if firefighters say that evacuation is important the systems would still be operating to try and minimize loss to property. 
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