A Pilot Project on Forest Fire Detection in Central Portugal
(IFFN No. 23 - December 2000,p. 99-102)
Project Eagle is a pilot project coordinated by ADAI (Associacao para o Desenvolovimento da Aerodinamica Industrial) team of the University of Coimbra, with the financial support of the General Directorate of Forests of Portugal with the objective of demonstrating the feasibility of using advanced fire detection and decision support systems on fire control activities. The area of intervention of the project is the District of Coimbra, in Central Portugal, that is extensively covered by pine and eucalypt forests and has been subjected to a large number of fires in the past years.
This project started in January 2000 and has the duration of two years. Besides the Forest Service various other public and private institutions co-operate in the activities of the project. One of the aims of this initiative is the possibility of applying directly the results and products of research projects carried out with the support of national and EU research programs.
A group of manufactures of fire detection equipment were invited to participate in the project and accepted to install their equipment in a set of selected watch towers. During the past summer the following systems were operating at the designated sites:
WatchTower of S. Pedro Dias
The Bosque System installed on the lookout tower of S. Pedri Dias is provided by Faba-Basan (Spain) and includes a video and an infra-red camera (Fig.1).
Fig.1. The Bosque System sensors installed at the S. Pedro Dias site.
Fig.2. The BSDS System sensors installed in the Soutelo watch tower
Fig.3. Managing the various systems at the Operational Coordination Centre of Poiares
Watch Tower of Lousã
The Lousã watch tower is equipped with the IVCS System which is provided by Teletron (Italy) and incorporates a video camera.
The watch towers are currently manned by observers day and night during the fire season. The fire detection equipment that was installed supplemented their activity and was generally well accepted. All these systems transmitted their images and data to a control centre that was installed at the Operational Coordination Centre of Coimbra. This Centre is manned 24 hrs by the Fire Brigade during the entire year. The systems were controlled by personnel from the ADAI team that received a specific training with the operation of the various systems. The communication between the control centre and the remote towers was made by radio signals, with the exception of the IVCS system from Teletron that used GSM communication based on the network of Optimus telephone company.
One of the products that was being tested during this activity was the fire behaviour prediction system Firestation developed by ADAI team. This system uses the topographical data of the region and the vegetation maps of the study area of the project to compute the wind field and the fire propagation, as soon as the location of the fire is known. The system allows the simulation of fire fighting activities, to predict their effectiveness in controlling the fire.
Unfortunately the Summer of 2000 was extremely busy with fire activity in the entire Country, but specially in this part of Portugal. Between the beginning of July when the systems started to operate and the end of September, more than 400 fires were recorded in the area covered by the watch towers. From these around 80 were registered and monitored by the systems installed in the scope of the project. The two systems incorporating IR sensors have the capacity of detecting fire ignitions automatically. It was found that these systems operated with great reliability with an acceptable level of false alarms.
One feature that was very much appreciated by the personnel of the Coordination Centre was the ability of observing directly the development of the fires, without the need of an intermediate communication with a field observer. This possibility that was provided by the various systems helped the controllers to make their decisions to allocate the fire fighting resources according to the situation that they were observing directly. This was particularly effective during those critical days in which the number and extension of the fires in the area exceeded by large the available means.
The project provided the personnel of the operational institutions dealing with forest fire prevention and management in Portugal the possibility of observing and getting acquainted with the solutions that are offered by various manufacturers and research teams to help them in their activity. It is expected that the natural resistance to change and to incorporate new technologies, that exist currently, may be overcome and that the use of this type of solutions be more common.
We are currently analysing the possibility of extending the Project Eagle area of activity to other parts of the country.
Fig.4. Video and infra-red images from a fire near Moura Morta on 7 August 2000
Fig.5. Simulation of a forest fire at Moura Morta using Firestation
Domingos Xavier Viegas
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Faculty of Technological Sciences, University of Coimbra
and Associacao para o Desenvolovimento da Aerodinamica Industrial
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