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August 15, 2013 11:15 am

Israelis Develop World’s First Fire Forecasting System

avatar by Zach Pontz

Aerial firefighting during the Mount Carmel fires in 2010. Photo: wiki commons.

This year has already seen a handful of devastating fires in places such as Arizona and Colorado. But if Israel has anything to say about it, the prevalence of such incidents will be mitigated by a new forecasting system developed by the research department of Israel’s Ministry of Public Security which can predict the path of forest fires.

ISRAEL21c reports that the Matash Fire Forecasting System works to crunch data concerning weather, topography and infrastructure using live feedback from firefighters at work as well as sources such as Google Maps and Google Earth. The project was launched after Israel’s record-breaking Carmel Forest fire of 201o, and is part of an effort to safeguard Israel’s 400,560 acres of forests.

“In 15 minutes we get predictions for one hour ahead,” geographic systems information manager Shai Amram told ISRAEL21c. “After 30 minutes, we get six hours ahead.”

Research Director Besora Regev told ISRAEL21c, “Last summer, there were two big fires near Jerusalem, in Motza and Ma’aleh Hachamisha. The system was very helpful for predicting a few hours ahead for the worst-case scenario that we do not want to get to.”

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“Matash presents decision-makers with a two-dimensional map; 3D imaging of fire temperature, fire line advancement and height of flames; maps of potential additional fires and high-risk areas; and weather forecasts for the next three days at a 1.3-kilometer resolution. The system has an accuracy level of within 50 meters and updates itself every six hours,” ISRAEL21c reported.

Matash is receiving much interest from abroad. Delegates from countries including Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia, South Korea and Kenya viewed the system at a homeland security conference in Tel Aviv last fall. The system operates in English increasing its global appeal.

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