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Real-time 'movies' will predict wildfire behavior for one hour

Someday fire fighters will be able to manage wildfires by computer.

Rochester Institute of Technology recently won a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to translate remote-sensing data about wildfires into real-time "mini-movies" that fire managers can download on laptop computers at the scene of a blaze. The model and visualization will predict the fire's behavior for the following hour.

This four-year collaborative project also involves researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Texas A&M, University of Colorado at Denver and University of Kentucky.

Leading RIT's research effort is Anthony Vodacek, assistant professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. Vodacek also heads RIT's Forest Fire Imaging Experimental System (FIRES), a precursor to the Wildfire Airborne Sensor Program (WASP). Other team members will include CIS senior research scientist Robert Kremens and postdoctoral fellow Ambrose Ononye.

FIRES and WASP research were made possible through the efforts of Congressman Jim Walsh, chair of the House VA/HUD Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, who has provided nearly $8 million through the NASA budget over four years to support wild fire-detection research at RIT.

The RIT team has two roles in its new project:

    -- To collect real-time data about wildfires using the airborne sensor, WASP, and ground-based sensors; and

    -- To use computer animation to visualize predicted fire behavior

In between those two steps, is a unique fire behavior model that forms the core of the project. Information collected by the RIT team will be fed into the model created by Vodacek's colleague Janice Coen at NCAR. Based on fire-behavior models in use by the U.S. Forest Service, Coen's model will combine RIT's data with the influence of weather conditions. The model will output a 3-dimensional "movie" about the fire sophisticat
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Contact: Susan Gawlowicz
snguns@rit.edu
585-475-5061
Rochester Institute of Technology
25-Sep-2003


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