Most wildfire fighting organisations that are serious about what they do stay abreast of technological developments, and implement such technology to make them more effective.
a) GIS and Digital mapping: The use of digital maps and data overlays has become an important tool in managing resources and decision making. Knowing the terrain (using 3-D programmes such as Google Earth), including information about previous fires and veld ages, location of roads, footpaths, streams, dams, firefighting teams and vehicles, and other important aspects, allows the Fire Boss / Incident Commander to develop and implement a battle plan to beat the fire. Latest situation maps can be printed and provided to the teams going into the field. The progression of the fire can also be mapped and saved in its various stages and used for the fire report.
b) Global Positioning System (GPS): Commonly found in most cell phones and in the form of small hand-held units, a GPS receiver makes use of orbiting satellites to provide the user with his precise location on the earth’s surface. This information can be used to plot his position on his own map, or relayed by radio or cell phone to the Control Centre which is then able to accurately plot the position. Support in the form of equipment, food, water or medical assistance is then more easily provided.
c) Passive Tracking Devices: These tiny “black boxes”, attached to a vehicle or crew leader, use cell phone technology to track and relay location information back to the Control Centre.
d) Heat sensitive cameras: This new generation technology is able make use of remote controlled cameras to identify smoke and heat sources over a great distance. Once detected, an alarm is triggered to notify the operator where the fire is burning. Response to such fires is extremely rapid, reducing the possibility of fire spreading.
e) Heat scanners: These devices, resembling torches, are able to detect the heat signatures of smouldering embers, many of which are often buried under the soil. Locating and extinguishing these hidden embers prevents their starting future fires.
f) Communications between the field office JOCC (Joint Operations Command Centre) and Headquarters: Wire 3-G / HSDPA systems allow data and images to be sent from the field back to the Headquarters, from where multiple fires might be managed. Such information assists top management in their decision making.
g) Radio communications: Sophisticated radio systems allow vitally important information to be passed from the fireline and aerial support to fire managers and other staff. Information is power, providing managers with information to assist with accurate and effective decision making.