SA broadcaster implements new fire map

SA broadcaster implements new fire map

6 June 2006

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South Africa’s Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research has announced that the South African Broadcasting Corporation will be implementing a world first “fire map” on television. The satellite-based fire information tool is the first if its kind in the world.

The South African public will be seeing a world first on television when the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) becomes the first public broadcaster to televise active fire maps as part of its weather reports.

The fire map, implemented on Tuesday at 17:30, developed jointly by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and power utility Eskom Holdings, will show active fires throughout South Africa as detected by satellites over the preceding 12 hours.

“This is a prime example of a private-public sector partnership, using the power of science and technology outcomes, to the benefit of the public. Through the CSIR’s research expertise, and its application for Eskom, people will get a better understanding of the extent and threat of fires in South Africa,” commented Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, CSIR president and CEO.

The fire map is one of the outcomes of the Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS), a joint project between the CSIR and Eskom.

AFIS is a satellite-based fire information tool that delivers the location of active fires in near-real time over southern Africa.

The CSIR’s expertise in remote sensing, in collaboration with the University of Maryland in the USA, NASA and Eskom, has resulted in the development of a unique fire detection system.

The application of remote sensing coupled with cell phone technology for alert messaging (or SMSs) is the first of its kind in the world.

The system allows Eskom management to respond quickly to fires under transmission lines, which could reduce damage and power supply disruptions.

“We are proud to have implemented this technology in Eskom,” said Hein Vosloo, Servitude Specialist -Transmission Division.

“As AFIS is a new system, we are still experimenting and improving the system,” said Vosloo.

He notes that not all fires are detected by the system, as size and duration do play a role.

The SABC fire map comes at a time when South Africa is entering its fire season between May and October (in the northern parts of the country). Information for the map is delivered free of charge to the SABC by Eskom and the CSIR.

Each dot on the fire map shows an active fire varying in size from 200m to 1 000m. Active fires are detected using data from the Moderate Resolution Image Spectro radiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest frequency of fires in the world. While wildfire is a natural phenomenon, people are responsible for most fires, sometimes with devastating consequences for humans, animals (wild and livestock), vegetation and infrastructure.

Countrywide, Fire Protection Associations are being established in terms of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act (Act 101 of 1998).

It is also planned to include them in the SMS service to mobilise fire fighters at the earliest possible time.


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