NZ real-time fire and smoke tool operational

The beta-version of the New Zealand real-time wildfire smoke forecasting and fire growth modelling system is now live on the Scion Rural Fire Research website. The system is under development and is constantly being tweaked and improved (e.g. the satellite fire detection component), but it is now live so we can obtain feedback from fire managers, Fire Behaviour Analysts and interested parties during the 2020/21 fire season.

The system makes use of satellite hot-spot detections to determine the affected areas of active wildfires which then initiates smoke forecasting and fire growth models. Active and historical satellite hot-spot detections can be viewed in the web browser (the recommended browser is Google Chrome) or downloaded to be viewed in Google Earth.

Smoke from wildfires can be harmful to human health, especially to vulnerable population groups such as children, the elderly and people with existing health conditions. The smoke forecasting component of the system, based on the BlueSky Smoke Forecasting Framework developed by the US Forest Service, provides smoke forecasts from active wildfires to inform the public and emergency services of potential smoke-related health concerns. Forecasts have already been used during several major New Zealand wildfires (e.g. 2015 Marlborough, Pigeon Valley) and the 2019/20 Australian bushfires). In areas where smoke forecasts are high or hazardous, a range of interventions should be considered to reduce people’s exposure to smoke. These interventions range from staying indoors and closing doors and windows, using respirators to filter out small particulate particles to evacuations.

Smoke forecasts can be viewed for two different domains, namely for New Zealand only (which includes smoke from wildfires occurring within New Zealand) and for a domain covering both New Zealand and eastern Australia (to predict smoke impacts from Australian bushfires on New Zealand). The smoke forecast can be viewed as an animation in the web browser, or it can be downloaded and viewed in Google Earth.

The system also makes predictions of fire growth modelling, making use of the Canadian model Prometheus. This part of the website is password protected and can only be accessed by operational fire personnel (contact us if this applies to you and you would like to be given access). Hourly fire growth perimeters are forecasted and provide an idea of the worst-case possible fire growth in the absence of suppression. As with the satellite hot spots and smoke data, forecasted fire growth perimeter data can be viewed in the web browser or downloaded and viewed in Google Earth.

A quick user guide to the website functions and features can here found here.

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