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UBC researchers develop wildfire warning system

Fire activity in the Bald Mountain area in August, 2017. (Courtesy BC Wildfire Service via Twitter)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – What if we could predict where and when wildfires will spark up? UBC researchers are developing a system to do just that.

Here’s how it works: these researchers track moisture in things that could potentially light up, like leaves in the forest.

They do that using satellites and can predict the risk of a human-caused spring wildfire with 10-day accuracy.

The researchers have identified what they call a spring burning window, that period after the snow melts in forests, but greenery has yet to spring up.

“Potentially, by the end of March, before the start of the fire season we can know, with pretty good accuracy, where these fire protection resources might need to be deployed throughout the province,” says UBC researcher Dr. Paul Pickell.

He says the system could be good to go by next year.

“We work directly with the wildfire management branch in Alberta,” says Pickell. “Beyond that, we’ve just passed the critical threshold of getting it through the scientific peer review process. We wanted to make sure we worked out all the kinks and that it was scientifically sound before we actually proceed to potentially implement it operationally starting next year.”

You can read more about this early warning system in the journal Scientific Reports.