UCSD tool could help predict next big fire

Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 12, 2017

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Fire is a difficult phenomenon to understand.

And when it happens, people don't want to wait for information.

"The first thing people want to know is - where is it, and where is it going, typically that's not readily available to the public," Jessica Block, a spatial data scientist with the UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute, said.

Until now, thanks to a UCSD project called WIFIRE.

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"The area in the middle with the number is the temperature and the arrow is showing wind direction," Block said.

They're using real-time data from different sources to create fire maps for the public.

Using current temperatures, humidity and wind speeds - all factors in how likely the fire is to grow. 

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"People all over the country have been using this website to know where the fire is the most real time as possible," Block said.

They're also providing predictive models for firefighters, which can be used on the ground with iPads, iPhones or laptops. 

Right now WIFIRE models can predict six hours out but researchers believe it could one day be 24 hours.

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"This fire happened extremely fast, in the middle of the night, it just goes to show how badly we need to be keeping track of weather conditions and fire conditions for human safety," Block said.

The growing number of urban communities adds complexity to their equation.

And more purpose to their mission. For more information, visit their website.