Wildfire management and technology: how can we use technology to increase resilience against wildfires?

EUROPARC Webinar

19th May 2022

Wildfires have always been a part of nature. Unfortunately, large-scale and more intense wildfires are becoming increasingly common and have a devastating impact on health & safety, ecological balance and cultural & socio-economic well-being. They also add to climate change. Therefore, a holistic wildfire management approach is needed.

The prevention of wildfires and the level of readiness against one might be the most important aspect of wildfire management, since it is better to avoid than to cure. In most cases currently, the observation of wildfire sensitive areas is monitored by a combination of cameras and foresters/park rangers. While this already provides some level of anticipation against wildfires, it has its shortcomings:

  • data provided by foresters and park rangers are limited to human capabilities and not continuously monitored;
  • observation data is challenging to share between stakeholders, so valuable input on forecasting models is lost;
  • installed cameras still need to be monitored by an operator in order to detect a wildfire.

In this webinar, we looked at how technology can help prevent wildfires and relieve some of the burden of those who work in Protected Areas. It was organised together with Senhive.

EFFIS: Satellite-based risk management

By Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz – Director European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) Programme – Joint Research Centre (JRC) Disaster Risk Management Unit, Italy.

Jesús has a PhD and MSc in Wildland Information Science, with majors in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems from the Forestry Department at the University of California-Berkeley, U.S.A. He also has a Forest Engineering Degree from the Polytechnic University, Madrid, Spain. Jesus works at the European Commission Joint Research Centre and coordinates and leads the development of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) and the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS). His publication list is available here.

This webinar also gave us a chance to acquire more information about the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). It was established by the European Commission (EC) in collaboration with the national fire administrations to support the services in charge of the protection of forests against fires in the EU and neighbouring countries. EFFIS is supported by a network of experts from 43 countries and provides satellite-based information on the current fire season in Europe and in the Mediterranean area. 

This includes today’s meteorological fire danger maps and forecasts up to 9 days, daily updated maps of hot spots (active fires) and fire perimeters.

Learn more about EFFIS by downloading the full presentation here.

Sen-Eye: Camera-based wildfire detection

By Thomas Petracca – CEO, Senhive, Belgium.

Thomas started his career as a telecommunications architect. In 2008, he started his own company by providing IT architecture services to several Fortune 100 companies. His expertise and drive resulted, among others, in the management & design of the Belgian Antarctic station. This eventually inspired him to start a company specialised in remote sensing and led to the creation of Senhive.

Sen-Eye is a camera-based autonomous wildfire detection system. It uses AI to autonomously detect wildfires and notify involved stakeholders. Sen-Eye can be installed on any type of IP camera and – by fusing EFFIS satellite data with smart power management – it can be deployed in off-grid areas where no power nor connectivity is at hand.

Get more insight into Senhive & Sen-Eye in their presentation here

NPWS response on recording fires / vegetation burning

NPWS currently does not have centralised operational programs for recording of fires.

Vegetation burning if encountered through surveillance of Natura 2000 sites or targeted scientific monitoring, may* be reported as a pressure in section 4.3 “Threats, pressures and activities with impacts on the site” of the site EU report, called the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form.

These reports are available via the NPWS website by designation type and site code (‘Natura form’), e.g. https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/sac/000407; https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/protected-sites/natura2000/NF000407.pdf) and are also accessible through the European Environment Agency’s EIONET Natura 2000 viewer https://natura2000.eea.europa.eu/#


NPWS targeted habitat and species monitoring programs may detect fires outside this network and these may* be reported as a pressure or threat in the monitoring publications which are also published to the NPWS website (https://www.npws.ie/publications, https://www.npws.ie/maps-and-data/habitat-and-species-data), as well as the Heritage Division web mapping portal of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage: https://dahg.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html and Data.gov.ie.

Work is ongoing to address a backlog of report data to publish as open access data through the NPWS website and data.gov.ie.

Mapping Irish fires with NASA

Aghowle, Carlow

Aghowle Carlow on NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System

https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/map/#t:adv;d:2022-02-22..2022-03-24,2022-02-22;@-6.6,52.8,14z

Mourne Mountains (Spelga Dam & Cock and Hen Mountains)

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/eight-fire-appliances-and-crews-ascending-mourne-mountains-to-tackle-gorse-fires-41477872.html

Ox Mountains, Foxford, Mayo

https://www.midwestradio.ie/index.php/news/56128-gorse-fires-on-the-ox-mountains-last-night-threatened-homes-and-properties

Claremorris, Mayo

Fivemiletown, Tyrone

Belfast

Kilkenny (Brandon Hill, south x3 sites)

https://twitter.com/StevieCahill/status/1507007531561881620/photo/2

Corbetstown, Offaly (peatland site?)

Fire based deductions by Dept of Agriculture under the Basic Payment Scheme

Four hundred and seven farmers were identified by the Department of Agriculture as having burned land declared on their 2019 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications. 

The burning related to 164 land parcels which covered 895ha.

The processing of cases is ongoing and, currently, 114 farmers have had financial deductions made to their BPS payments, totalling €90,210, a Department of Agriculture spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal

At that rate, the average payment deduction was almost €800/farmer. 

Donegal had the highest number of burned land parcels with 70 last year. It was followed by Mayo with 37 and Kerry with 32. See Figure 1.

County breakdown

It is illegal to burn land in Ireland between 1 March and 31 August under the Wildlife Act. Landowners risk prosecution, fines and potential imprisonment. Since 2010, eight prosecutions have been taken by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for illegal burning.

Burned land is not eligible for payment under the BPS and other area-based schemes and the inclusion of illegally burned land in a BPS application may result in reduced payment and penalties under this scheme and the other area-based schemes, such as the Areas of Natural Constraints scheme. Illegal burning can also render neighbouring land ineligible for payment.

FLARES – Fire, Land and Atmospheric Remote sensing of Emissions

Fires, Land and Atmospheric Remote Sensing of EmissionS (FLARES) aims to develop systematic approaches to the acquisition and collation of a range of data on agricultural and uncontrolled wildland burning burn events from satellite datasets.

These will be validated by in situ observations, and measurement of relevant emission factors for Irish wildfires, with the objective of improving the accuracy and reducing uncertainty in the quantification of annual greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.

The work builds on previous EPA-funded work to characterise upland habitats from satellite imagery, thus enabling the type of vegetation burned to be identified, and biomass lost to be calculated. The reliability of existing satellite and ground datasets will be evaluated, and proposals made for future operational air quality monitoring by drawing on the inter-disciplinary approaches of the Earth Observation and Atmospheric Chemistry expertise within the consortium.