Satellite based forest fire detection and automatic alert system Pilot experiment

Väinö Kelhä, Einar-Arne Herland, Anssi Lohi
VTT Automation, P.O.Box 13002, FIN-02044 VTT, Finland.
Tel. : +358-9-456 4330, Fax: +358-9-456 6475,
E-mail: vaino.kelha@vtt.fi

A fully automatic system has been developed to detect forest fires using data from the meteorological NOAA satellites. The system has been tested in four pilot experiments in 19941998 in Finland and its neighbouring countries Estonia, Latvia, Russian Carelia, Sweden and Norway. For each detected fire, a telefax including data on the location of the fire, the observation time and a map showing the location, is sent directly to the local fire authorities. The area of the smallest forest fires detected was 0.1 ha. The time delay between receiving the NOAA scene and the sending of the fire alert was 31 min in average. Nearly all detected fires were forest fires or prescribed burnings. In the pilot experiment of the summer 1997 363 fires were observed and alerted. The verification showed that 83% of the given alerts concerned real fires. According to the authorities, none of the real significant forest fires in Finland remained undetected. The good verification results show that satellite-based detection system of forest fires is reliable, fast and cost effective, and it has potential in sparsely populated areas if continuous supply of middle-infrared satellite data can be guaranteed in the future. Because of the ecological and human necessity, fire monitoring and alert systems should urgently be established on a global scale. For this purpose dedicated fire detection instruments and satellites should be made.