Saturday, June 28, 2008

EROS to fight wildfires through satellite imageries

Some of the country's top wildfire experts are in South Dakota, talking about tactics they need to fight fires that are raging out in California, and an organization here in South Dakota can help.

The EROS Data Center just north of Sioux Falls is part of the Department of the Interior and provides satellite images and aerial maps to the federal government. For the past few days, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council has been meeting there to talk about satellite technology and how it can be used to fight wildfires on the ground.

As more than one thousand fires burn in California, crews are fighting those fires on the ground and from the air, but government officials are also fighting the flames from space.

EROS Director Eric Clemons says, "We collect the data imagery down from the satellites here at the center." The EROS Data Center can take satellite images of fires to assist crews on the ground.

Jim Cason with the Wildland Fire Leadership Council says, "They help on the ground managers make decisions about how big is the fire now, what exactly is the terrain it's in, how much fuel is there?"

While hundreds of fires burn in California, Jim Cason and the Wildland Fire Leadership Council visited EROS today to see first hand how the South Dakota data center can help fight those fires.

Cason says, "The EROS Data Center provides an indespensible service to the wildland fire fighting community in that it provides information and allows us to plan for fires better."

Clemons says, "I think the important part was to have that group here at our center to see what we do to understand what we do and to kind of put it all together and find a way to go forward in future support." Fire support that can also come from satellites in space.Officials say the satellite images taken after the fire has burned an area can also help fire experts find patterns in the way wildland fires burn in certain types of terrain and conditions.



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