Technology to detect start of forest blazes

Wildfires are nothing new in Southern California, but this year's has been brutal. It has charred nearly 8,000 hectares northwest of Los Angeles and damaged 13 buildings so far.

But new technology may help firefighters in fighting forest fires. The California Department of Forestry is the first in the U.S. to try a brand new system called Fire Hawk.

It consists of a digital camera mounted high above the trees to be on the lookout for columns of smoke. Firefighters can manually scan for kilometers with a joystick. When the software detects smoke, firefighters can click on a map that will tell them exactly where the fire is.

That role used to be played by rangers who sat in fire towers looking for smoke, but that system was expensive and not as effective.

Captain Dale McGill of the California Department of Forestry explains. "The earlier we detect them, the faster we can get equipment there and keep the fire small. CDF's goal is to keep fires to less than ten acres (4 hectares), to the best of their ability," reports VOA.

"We're up there … trying to get all the hot spots around the edges taken care of before these winds kick in this afternoon," he said.

Residents evacuated from about 70 homes in Sunset Canyon were able to return over the weekend.

The region's largest blaze, at more than 24,000 acres on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, was 85 percent contained, said Inspector Ron Haralson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Haralson said he was worried about the weather forecast.

"You have to have a watchful eye over the whole area right now," he said, informs the AP.


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