Defeating Fire

4 Jul, 2017Working on Fire Brazil

For the third consecutive year, the prestigious Online B-Forest Magazine invited Working on Fire Brazil to participate in discussions on forest fire prevention and control. In this article, Daniel Santos, comments that global warming has been an important catalyst for studies on forest fires. This interesting read explains it all.

Planning the prevention of possible incidences of forest fires is indispensable for the success of enterprises. However, when prevention or early detection are not possible, it is necessary that companies in the industry be prepared, and able to fight fires in the most effective and safest way possible. For this, it is important to know the technologies available in the market, aimed at the maximum reduction of risks and costs.

It is common to hear that forces of nature are unpredictable and that it is not plausible that a company can protect its enterprise from all possible misfortunes and natural disasters. Although popular knowledge is not entirely wrong in this regard, it is possible to plan with responsibility and knowledge and implement new technologies to increase the chances of success. When the variable in question is fire, forest enterprises can – and must – invest in techniques and technologies for forest fire prevention and control, as the results of these investments are clear and tangible.

“Fire is something that has always aroused great interest in the man. We already have a lot of accumulated knowledge, but new hypotheses and discoveries are also frequent. Concern about the possible impacts of global warming on forest fires has been a great motivator for interesting studies”, said Daniel Santos, Executive of Working on Fire Brazil.

Santos emphasises that another major point of attention for industry researches, probably already caused by global warming, is the increasing incidence of catastrophic fires in several parts of the globe, such as recent events in Canada, Chile, the United States, Madeira Island, Indonesia, Portugal, etc. Despite this, in Brazil, the main cause of fire in planted forests remains criminal action. Natural causes, although they occur, are less frequent (and are a fundamental part of some biomes). This means that the forestry sector has major challenges ahead if it wants to reduce the incidence of serious fires as much as possible.

“The challenges are many. We must advance training, evolve in the preparation of prevention and combat plans, work on product certifications, especially for the use of suppressant additives, in the development of new equipment and tools, amongst others. In addition, it is still necessary to raise awareness at certain companies about the importance of this issue, including agendas, programs and prevention campaigns”, says Cândido Simões, Manager of Forest sales at Guarany.

According to André Feldman, Agro Robotics sales and marketing director, the lack of a specific budget in the public market mean there are no detection capability and in rare cases, there is a small combat team that usually receive a late alert and do not have structures to fight already large scale fires. “In the private sector, there are difficulties in hiring and retaining qualified labour who are willing to work in towers up to 50 meters high. This, combined with labour laws, makes this a profession of the past, as it is much more attractive to work in an air-conditioned operating room with hot meals aided by high-tech hardware and software”, he analyses.

Technological Combat

The technologies in question can be divided into two specific areas: detection and combat of forest fires. While the former is linked to rapid preventive action to prevent the spread of fire, the second comes into play when the fire has passed that stage and must be extinguished with larger-scale intervention actions.

“All of fire engineering starts with detection and alarm systems. These systems provide the first fire warning and can be very sophisticated, detecting smoke outbreaks not yet visible to people. It can point to the first sign of a fire, which is often easier to suppress”, says Antonio Paulo Meyer, CEO of EcoSafety Fire Engineering.

Agro Robotics is one of the companies that operates and offer technological solutions for the detection and combat of forest fires. “We developed software with an advanced smoke detection algorithm that can monitor an area of up to 100 km² and hardware with thermal cameras, which can detect a fire of 1,5 meters with total security and of autonomy. Managers need to know that it is possible to get people off the towers and put in place an automated system that runs 24/7 without fail, “explains André Feldman. According to him, a person, working in three shifts can control up to 30 towers safely and effectively.

Specialist in IFMS (Integrated Fire Management System), Working on Fire offers customised services. “We implemented the first project in Eldorado in 2016 with the pioneering global forest fire detection system, Firehawk, and have excellent expectations for the coming months. Another point of great interest is the application of methodologies for the elaboration of fire risk. We work with a tool called AFIS (Advanced Fire Information System) that produces easy to understand reports with high technological sophistication forecasts of fire risk for the next five days. Eldorado is also using AFIS and the reports issued by this software assist in its management of IFMS”, explained Daniel Santos.

 “The technologies available in the market today allow the intelligent and integrated management of the forest plantations”

Guarany, meanwhile, offers firefighting equipment “from hand tools to the sets used in pick-up vehicles including suppressants and flame retardants, blowers, motor pumps, accessories and special hoses, such as specific EPIs for forest brigades and certifications”, according to the company’s Forest Sales Manager.

The technologies available on the market today, in short, allow the intelligent and integrated management of forest plantations to prevent, detect and extinguish fires with a great reduction of cost and risk.

Integration Trends

According to market experts, technologies and techniques in the area of integrated fire management follow this path, as evidenced by the development of new additives and equipment in this area.

“Suppressing and flame retardant additives are used often as they enable effective combat and great water savings. Another  piece of equipment used in the firefighting is the blower, also known as flow fan. It can be used for direct combat for certain types of fires and in combination with other equipment such as dampers and pumps. In addition to direct combat, they have been used in the construction of firebreaks to great effect”, says Cândido Simões, from Guarany.

“In the USA, an agent called S500 is used, an additive that can be mixed in water at a proportion of 1%. It is used little, but it increases the water’s extinguishing power by up to 20 times. For a forest fire, the results are significant. With little water, increasing its extinguishing capacity, it is possible to extinguish the fire “, says Antonio Paulo Meyer, CEO of EcoSafety.

In addition to the development of integrated technologies, Daniel Santos of Working on Fire, highlights a growing international awareness that climate change will increase the risk of disastrous forest fires”. Based on this, it becomes more important that entities and companies prepare to manage fires in a more efficient way. The focus should be on fire prevention rather than reactive suppression. Ideally, 80% of resources should be invested in prevention and readiness and only 20% in suppression”, he reports.

Other trends pointed out by the interviewees are the increase in investments in the area of forest protection, observing the direct relationship of natural disasters (fires, droughts and floods) with the changes in the climate on the planet, as well as the implementation of artificial intelligence systems to carry out the management, not only of detection but also the fight against forest fires.

Therefore, the objective of all companies, entities and professionals working in this sector is clear: that the planted forests of the future defeat the fire.

Article originally published in The June edition of B.Forest – A revista electronica do setor florestal.


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