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Digital fire tracking system launches in California

The new tool strives to map and predict fires in real time in order to protect residents and aid first-responders working in the field.

A new high-tech system that will provide immediate and frequent updates on both current and developing fires launched in California.

The new Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) which began in September, aims to keep people safe and informed against fires.

The prevalence of wildfires is only growing, and there is a need for more innovative strategies to combat and contain fires. Brian Fennessy, the Orange County Fire Authority Fire Chief, explained the urgency for a system like FIRIS is important because “the types of fires we are experiencing in western U.S. have gotten worse, we are looking for new technology systems to help combat it.”

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, there have been over 4,000 fires in California in 2019 so far, even though wildfire season is just beginning.

This system operates by utilizing a fixed-wing aircraft equipped with infrared and radar senses so that it can see through smoke. The plane provides real-time fire mapping as well as high definition streaming that uploads to a supercomputer to assist first responders.

Fennessy explained how technology is being successfully utilized for this task.

“What we talk about today isn’t necessarily new, the technologies have been around for a while,” he said. “But what really is new is putting them all together, and launching them on what we call initial attack.” With the addition of this system, there can be a preliminary attack at the first report of a fire.

The University of California, San Diego WIFIRE system is collaboratively being utilized in order to predict the pattern of fires in Southern California. The WIFIRE model also accounts for and updates any successful fire suppression actions by the firefighters.

Chief John McNeil, the Ventura County Fire Assistant, said that “having this tool now, is a game-changer.”

Fire departments, the U.S Army, police departments and the government have collectively been working on this system to ensure its efficiency. According to a new release by the Orange County Fire Authority, “This intel allows for more timely and accurate decision making for resource allocation and evacuations.”

Cottie Petrie-Norris, the assemblywoman for the 74th Assembly District, spoke at a press conference on Monday that explained the system.

“I am proud to have partnered with the Orange Country Fire Authority in securing $4.5 million in state funds for technology that will protect lives and property by giving first responders better, stronger tools to use against the threat of wildfires,” Petrie-Norris said.

The information provided by FIRIS will provide first responders with more accurate and updated information, which in turn will assist L.A. residents in anticipating and preparing for a fire.

A twin engine prop plane was launched during the demonstration to depict a simulated fire emergency. The plane uses Intterra, a cloud-based data visualization software, to provide access to data and analytics regarding the fire.

As the world digitizes and social services use it to their advantage, Fennessy said that the fire department is “embracing technology like we never have before.”