Ryan Maye Handy, who has written for Wildfire Today, has crafted three articles for the Colorado Springs Gazette about advances in wildfire management technology that the state of Colorado is adopting. One is about the PC-12 fixed wing aircraft (which we have covered at Fire Aviation) that the state is purchasing. Another focuses on the inability to find, for many hours, the reported smoke that later developed into the disastrous Waldo Canyon fire that killed two people and destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs. The PC-12s, or any aircraft for that matter, probably could have detected the smoke and facilitated a much quicker initial attack on the fire.
The third article is about mapping fires with thermal sensors, and quotes Phil Riggan, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist and thermal imaging pioneer based in Riverside, California. Below is an excerpt:
…Since 2001, Riggan has been part of the push to modernize firefighting by mixing on-the-ground firefighting with thermal images of wildfires. While the Forest Service uses a NIROPS flight, short for National Infrared Operations, to make passes over large fires once a day, Riggan advocates for real-time maps.
“If you are on one side of the fire, you don’t really know what’s going on on the other,” he said. “There’s just a lot of confusion that goes on. It’s really important that we try to move into a more modern stance here on fire information.”
Riggan, who has worked for years on a thermal imaging product called FireImager for the Forest Service, is not alone in his thinking. Last week, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control signed contracts for two aircraft designed to capture thermal images of fires and upload them immediately into a statewide computer system that can feed to firefighters’ smartphones or tablets.