CENTRAL OREGON (KPTV) – While forest fires are burning in our state, special teams are using infrared technology to map the lines of fire from the sky to help crews fight the flames on the ground.
“To understand how the fire grew overnight, infrared interpretation and infrared flights are the best tools we have to do it,” said Erik Larsen, geographic information specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF).
Larsen is part of the process of turning infrared data into a card for firefighters.
“Heat emits radiation in the form of infrared light that we can’t see with our visual eyes, but we have sensors and cameras that can do this work for us. So it takes what we can’t see and translates it into something we can see, “said Larsen.” Infrared data goes beyond mere fire. It tells us where the isolated heat is in the fire, where the intense heat sources are and where the heat is more widely dispersed. “
Larsen says the bigger the fire, the more resources the crews will devote to harnessing infrared technology from the air.
Whether or not they use this technology depends on the complexity of the fire.
Larsen says they consider the size of the fire, proximity to communities, and the safety of the firefighters.
Once the request for a flight has expired, this is usually done in the evening so as not to disturb any planes that are burning during the day.
An infrared interpreter on the plane translates the image into data that Larsen can use to create maps.
“Preparing the stage with an accurate map of the situation on the ground will improve the effectiveness of the fire fighting the next day,” said Larsen.
Larsen says fire maps are made daily, even when planes aren’t flying the fire.
He says crews can use other tools to map the fire, such as drones.
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