TACIS Project Newsletter No.2: Improvement in Forest Fire Response System

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Project Newsletter
ISSUE No 2, October 1999

Tacis Project ENVRUS9701:

“Improvement in Forest Fire Response System”

I. Main Results of 2nd Implementation Phase (July – October 1999)

(A) Management Support Component:

  • NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) satellite receiving stations for the Pushkino and Irkutsk airbases and hardware/software for system development have been procured. These will be installed at the airbases as soon as the tax clearing procedures are completed and equipment is released by the customs authorities. The remainder of the equipment required has been identified and the respective tender documents are being produced.
    In considering the long-term information needs of a broader forest information system (e.g., periodic forest inventory), it would be desirable to procure satellite receiving stations able to acquire medium/high spatial resolution data in addition to low spatial resolution AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) data. However, the required financial means to procure, install and operationalise such stations clearly exceeds the current project’s budget. Nevertheless, assessment of the potential of high/medium spatial resolution imagery to improve fire response systems using test data has been included in the project to provide an option for the future integration of such data into the Forest Protection Information System.
  • The Project Management Team plans to publish results of consultants working under this component under a bilingual ‘Wildland Fire Management Series’ to be issued by the beginning of next year. The ‘Wildland Fire Management Series’ aims to serve as a basis for a productive exchange of information and for discussion of wildfire fire management issues relevant to project objectives.

(B) Remote Sensing Component:

  • The adaptation of existing satellite data acquisition and pre-processing software to the new receiving stations, the development of archiving procedures and the enhancement of data transmission procedures are nearing completion. New procedures have been added in accordance with the specifications of the new receiving stations.
  • A detailed description of the satellite data acquisition and processing chain is being prepared.

  • Several multi-threshold and contextual fire detection algorithms will be optimised during the next fires season so as to minimise the rates of false alarms and fires missed. Preliminary tests have shown that there will be no single optimal fire algorithm for the entire Russian Federation, but that fire detection algorithms have to be adapted to local and seasonal context in order to produce optimal results.
  • Monitoring of spreading fires is based on the analysis of multi-temporal sets of satellite images with rather high requirements regarding their geometric accuracy. Orbital data direct from NOAA satellites have proven insufficient to meet these requirements. A method to improve the geometrical accuracy of satellite images utilising a water mask produced from data sets of the Digital Chart of the World (DCW) and the World Vector Shoreline (WVS) was developed and is now at the stage of testing. This will improve monitoring of large forest fires and will also benefit other image analysis procedures.
  • A preliminary image analysis of fire scars in the Far East after the 1998 fire season revealed the necessity to work out a method, which incorporates local criteria into the analysis, so as to improve the mapping accuracy.
  • A comparative analysis of five large forest fires in the Irkutsk region using data from the MSU-SK (Resurs) and AVHRR sensors to ascertain the area burned was conducted. Preliminary results show that after geometric image correction, the co-ordinates of hot spots detected by means of AVHRR data (during active fires) coincide well with the slashes classified after fires. Areas ascertained by means of the AVHRR sensor underestimated the area burned by 10-15% as compared to areas ascertained by means MSU-SK data, which are assumed to produce results with higher accuracy and precision due to their higher spatial resolution. (Verification of exact area burned by means of aerial photography or terrestrial survey was precluded by budget constraints.)

(C) Forest Protection Information System (FPIS) Component:

  • At present there are two prototype GIS systems – one at the federal, the other at the regional level – which are under development and, eventually, will be integrated into a single system.
  • Most of the specified procedures for baseline and operational data updating, processing, data dissemination, access and reporting have been developed and automated for both systems. Work on the design and development of derived products and decision support tools, such as a fire threat rating system component, which will allow FPIS users to prioritise initial attacks and improve the allocation and deployment of suppression resources, has commenced.

  • In order to ensure efficient integration of data between the regional and federal functionality and between the producers of data who are working in various locations, common data formats, projections for geographic data and a common core database structure are now being defined. A detailed system design for the FPIS is being prepared.

(D) System Integration Component:

  • The specification of communication lines to allow the development of an effective and efficient forest protection information network is complete. It was decided that the project will assist Avialesookhrana in the implementation of the selected option. The establishment of a standing communication line for the Pushkino airbase is underway.

(E) Capacity Building Component:

  • The workshop ‘Fire on Ice’ in conjunction with the International Conference ‘World Natural Forests and their Role in Global Processes’ was held in Khabarovsk at August 15 as a joint activity of the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC), the IGBP Northern Eurasia Study (IGBP-NES), the Biomass Burning Experiment (BIBEX of the IGBP Core Project International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC), the Fire Research Campaign Asia North (FIRESCAN), and the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA) Fire Working Group. The conference was supported by the project.

The workshop reviewed the state of knowledge in the interactions between climate variability, fire regimes, and permafrost in boreal circumpolar ecosystems with a focus on the Russian Federation. An in-depth discussion was held with representatives of the Russian Forest Service and the fire science community, jointly with the Executive Director of the IGBP, on a comprehensive strategic circumpolar science and policy plan which addresses the implications of regional circumpolar climate change, and socio-economic and land-use changes on fire regimes and fire effects and the required technical and technological solutions and programmes. A report of the workshop in the form of a strategic paper will be finalised after the participants have delivered their inputs.

  • A SWOT workshop identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the present forest protection system was conducted by the project team on 2nd September with participants from federal and regional levels of Avialesookhrana and the Federal Forest Service.

II. Other Initiatives

The project has commissioned the Global Forest Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC), headed by Dr. Johann Goldammer, to establish links between the project and relevant international initiatives on wildland fire management and to represent the project’s interests in international working groups on wildland fires.

1. News on technology developments

The currently available spaceborne fire sensors, such as the NOAA/AVHRR sensor exploited in the Forest Protection Information System, have limited capabilities to depict fires and fire effects. The project team therefore tracks and participates in new technology developments, which are relevant to project objectives.

These include: (i) The Bispectral Infra-Red Detection (BIRD) satellite, a project of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with the GFMC. BIRD will be launched in 2000 or 2001. The instruments will be tested in Russia, both as spaceborne and airborne versions. The test programme will be conducted jointly with the Russian Forest Service, through Avialesookhrana and the Sukachev Institute, starting in 2001; and (ii) the FOCUS fire sensor, scheduled to be mounted on the International Space Station (ISS). FOCUS is also an instrument developed by DLR and tested by the GFMC. FOCUS validation will also be conducted in Russia.

2. News on international co-operation in fire emergencies

It was discussed with counterparts during the last Management Task Force Meeting to look into options for improving Avialesookhrana’s tight financial situation, thereby enhancing the prospect of sustainability of project results. Currently the GFMC is working on a concept of establishing an International Task Force on Fire (ITFF) which will be associated with the UN and other international organisations, e.g. the World Bank and the European Council (EUROPA Major Hazards Agreement). The ITFF will have an operational wing for assistance in fire emergencies. It is hoped to develop an agreement with Avialesookhrana, Emercom and a German-Russian consortium to establish a multinational fire response force in which Russian long-range aircraft, helicopters and Avialesookhrana fire specialists would be made available for international missions. Technical and organisational details will be discussed in December 1999. The project management team plans to conduct a workshop in February 2000, Pushkino, to inform project counterparts, partners and concerned stakeholders about these and other recent developments.

III. Contact Address

Matthias Rhein, Project Manager
c/o Central Airbase, AVIALESOOKHRANA
20 Gorki street, Pushkino, Russia 141200
Tel: (+7) 096-532-6752, Fax: (+7) 096-532-9220

Updates and details on the project can be obtained via the project’s English website (https://gfmc.online/programmes/techcoop/tacis.htm) or the project contact stated above. Comments are welcome.

The ENVRUS 9701 Project is being carried out by a consortium headed by HTS Consultants and including TAESCO Europe and Helsinki Consulting Group under funding by the EU TACIS programme.



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