November 6, 2004

HPWREN sensor data used for setting off real-time alarms for firefighters

First Responders know that weather is the driving force behind most wildfires, and they are utilizing weather data to predict potential wildland fire burning conditions. Management and staffing of firefighting resources from aircraft to fire crews for present and future needs is based upon the fire potential. Experience has shown that under specific weather conditions, small fire ignitions can quickly become very large and destructive wildfires.

Extending on instrumentation described at "Advances in Real-Time Sensor Data Distribution across HPWREN", the team enhanced the technology into an early warning system.

Pablo Bryant, Ron Serabia, and Jim Hale are installing the meteorological station on Lyons Peak in August, 2004. The horizontal beam hosts the Campbell CS500 air temperature and relative humidity sensors, as well as an LI-COR LI-200X silicon pyranometer. The top of the pole will eventually support the Met One 034 anemometer, which was installed a little later. The TB4 siphoning tipping bucket rain gauge, Campbell CS107 fuel temperature sensor and Campbell CS505 fuel moisture sensor are mounted on the back side of the tower. The Campbell CS105 barometric pressure sensor and 10X datalogger are hosted in an enclosure near the center of the tower, alongside a serial-to-Ethernet converter. The data collection computer (Arcom Viper) emanating the multicast data stream is located in the tower vault. The camera below Bryant is a fixed 90+ degree view camera, part of the four camera set viewable at http://archive.hpwren.ucsd.edu/cameras/, allowing for the comparison of sensor data with visible conditions.
met sensors

This architecture can allow decisions to be made at earlier stages than before, to manage additional resources and staff prior to a wildfire starting under adverse weather conditions. The current parameterization of the data has been developed by CDF Division Chief Randy Lyle, and is based on alert rules of weather sensor data collected as one minute averages. This parameterization is under continuing development, based on experiences gained, and may change over time. Currently an alert is triggered if:

    • the Relative Humidity drops below 25 percent - AND -
    • the Wind Direction is between 10 and 110 degrees - AND -
    • the Wind Speed is above 25 miles per hour

    - OR -

  1. the Fuel Moisture drops below 7 percent

To avoid oscillations of the alert conditions, the clearing of the alarm requires that:

  1. the Relative Humidity increases to above 45 percent - AND -
  2. the Wind Speed drops to below 15 miles per hour - AND -
  3. the Fuel Moisture exceeds 10 percent

These weather alerts get immediately emailed, including to pagers, and re-issued as daily reminders every morning at 7AM, if the condition persists. The alarm text is short enough for cell phone SMS text paging. An example looks like:

Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2004 05:09:58 -0800
Subject: URGENT weather sensor alert
LP: RH=22.8 WD=71.8 WS=25.1 FM=13.2 at 20041101.050900

This real-time HPWREN weather data distribution is by now being used to alert First Responders through pager or email alarms for several CDF Chiefs, USFS Chiefs and staff officers, and is currently based on sensors on Mt. Laguna and Lyons Peak.

Additional data for Mt. Laguna and Lyons Peak can be found alongside other sensor data at the http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Sensors/ web page.

"Wildland Fire Fighters know that a good size up begins early in the morning when we see what the new day will bring us weather-wise," says Randy Lyle. "With these remote sensors we can now get a big jump on that information, and even in the middle of the night know that wind speed and direction, humidity and fuel moistures are becoming critical. The sensors allow us to verify the fire weather forecasts in real time, so we can begin to plan for fire events much earlier now."

-- Ron Serabia, retired CDF Fire Captain

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