SMSes and satellites to help fight fires

SMSes and satellites to help fight fires

 29 October 2007

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South Africa — Fire detection in the Western Cape has gained a technologicaledge with the introduction of extended satellite detection at all ofCapeNature’s provincial reserves.

In a statement issued late last week, CapeNature said that as soon as satellitesdetected a fire on or near a CapeNature reserve, co-ordinates, localFire-Danger-Indexes and rate of spread were SMSed to the organisation’s firemanager, Zane Erasmus.

The same SMS would be sent to the relevant reserve’s business manager.

Erasmus also monitored satellite readings on the Internet “on a 24/7 basis”.

The boost in satellite detection came through partnerships with the Council forScientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Eskom and the National Aeronauticsand Space Agency (Nasa).

On Sunday, Erasmus said the satellite detection system had been used in theBoland mountain area on a “trial basis” for the past two years.

The Boland area was “pretty well developed”, with many people actingas lookouts and informing the authorities of fires as they started.

He said the technology would work “very well” in the province’s moreremote areas, as there were fewer people to report fires.

Erasmus said a rapid response could ensure that fires were attended to whilethey were “relatively small”, which would reduce the chance of themspreading wildly.

CapeNature noted that the province’s fire season extended from October to thefirst rains in April, and that February and March were “historically”the hottest and driest months in the Western Cape.

Most veld fires coincided with the peak of the holiday season in December, theorganisation stated.

Erasmus said it was difficult to tell what sort of fire season the provincecould expect this year.

More than 180 firefighters could be placed on standby during periods when firehazards were high or extreme, he said of the organisation’s readiness.

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