Fires Detection and Fire Forecast

Fire management activities, namely early forest fires start-up identification and fire fighting, is still strictly tied to soil orography, both during the observation activities (monitoring activities and alarm procedures) and during operators’ intervention and related safety procedure. Presently, systems available for Mediterranean typology fires monitoring take advantage of their specific properties: Mediterranean vegetation with its bushes and resinous trees lead the flame to burn the canopy in a very short time. Of course, the presence of a flagrant flame burning on trees canopy eases monitoring and alarm detection procedures. Alpine forest fires instead start and grow from undergrowth, especially in fall and winter seasons, when underbrush litter, due to its humidity and composition, behaves as an easy-to-fire fuel. Such fires grow up initially almost without flame or smokes, two fundamental elements in fires detection. Hence, the application of common techniques on an alpine territory would bear to severe false alarm and missing detection problems. Remote Sensing Group (RSG) is working since several years in analysing alpine regions forest fires environment and in designing and implementing forecasting and monitoring systems capable of forecast and detect smokes and fire hot spots in complex orography regions.

Concerning the forecasting topic, RSG developed and realized a computing system for forest-fire-danger-index forecasting, which elaborates weather parameters maps to evaluate fire danger indicator on the area of interest. The system, named FIRECAST®, has been realized in collaboration with EnviSens Technologies s.r.l. ( ), a spin-off of Politecnico di Torino. FIRECAST® uses as a starting point the forecasting Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI) adjusted for continental Europe latitudes and climatology and adapted for alpine regions orography. In particular, the innovative issue of the system is its capability in improving danger estimation by evaluating orographic parameters like terrain slope and orientation, in order to obtain output maps representing expected fire danger on examined area with forecasting time interval up to 72 hours. FIRECAST® is a valuable aid in fire fight management: it allows involved agencies for an efficient resources handling (both logistic and human), for a finalized territory monitoring and for an intervention planning oriented to operators’ safety.

Concerning the monitoring topic, RSG has been involved and it’s still involved in several projects for the design and the implementation of innovative monitoring and detection system for forest fires in alpine regions. In particular, within three projects with Regione Piemonte, in order to renew and improve the regional forest fires monitoring system Prometeo, RSG realized an innovative and low-cost experimental monitoring station (Truch Vernetta) that is capable of detecting smokes and fire hot spots in complex orography regions by combining multispectral (Visible, Near Infrared, Thermal Infrared) sensors responses. The system implemented for Regione Piemonte includes two innovative software tools: an application for sensed images analysis and interpretation capable of detecting and precise positioning of alarm points and an application for images’ rectification and geo-referencing. By combining the capabilities of the two applications in analysing images sensed by the monitoring station, it is possible to early detect fire hot spots and to give to the responsible agencies crucial information about alarm positioning and accessibility in order to strongly enhance decision support efficiency.

Research groups

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