California is in the throes of a wildfire epidemic. Wildfires have their purpose- they often help to maintain the overall health of forests, by clearing out dead plants and trees and releasing the nutrients therein. But whilst California languishes in a major drought, the wildfire situation has spun out of control. Last month, one fire alone decimated 2,000 homes and caused over $22 million in damages. At the time of writing, California is fighting three fires along the the coast. Luckily, researchers at UCSD have developed a system known as WIFIRE, which uses environmental data to predict when a wildfire is likely to occur, and is able to alert officials and residents in seconds. How does it collect this data? By hooking up the trees to the Internet of Things.

The NSF grant award page expands on the nuts-and-bolts of the WIFIRE system:

The WIFIRE CI integrates networked observations, e.g., heterogeneous satellite data and real-time remote sensor data, with computational techniques in signal processing, visualization, modeling and data assimilation to provide a scalable, technological, and educational solution to monitor weather patterns to predict a wildfire’s Rate of Spread. Our collaborative WIFIRE team of scientists, engineers, technologists, government policy managers, private industry, and firefighters will architect and implement CI pathways that enable joint innovation for wildfire management.

Scientific workflows will be used as an integrative distributed programming model and will simplify the implementation of engineering modules for data-driven simulation, prediction and visualization while allowing integration with large-scale computing facilities.

The idea for WIFIRE developed from the state’s existing Area Situational Awareness for Public Safety Network (ASAPnet). This system connects around 60 regional fire stations in a network for monitoring environmental conditions within the forests.

However, the WIFIRE system won’t be aiding in the battle against California’s blazing forests just yet. Initial operational trials will only commence at the beginning of next year. Hopefully, the system will enable officials to take a proactive approach to fighting fires, and better protect the lives and natural resources at threat during this deadly season.

Read more here.
(Image credit: Flickr)

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