Wildland firefighting, much like any industry, constantly evolves with the changing times. As the technology for fighting fires improves, so too do our approaches to firefighting.
This article will review the advances in wildland firefighting technology. People who are interested in a career in wildland firefighting may be fascinated to know where the field is headed.
Thermal Imaging Advances
NASA developed thermal imaging devices to help map the patterns and direction of wildfires. The technology allows for a more simplified study of wildfires, which saves resources, time, and lives. Thermal imaging can even spot areas where there is no smoke, but where the undergrowth is still burning. These spots pose a great risk if they go unnoticed. Today, firefighters can spot hotspots using devices that plug into their smartphones.
Fire Surveillance Drones
Firefighters face a tremendous number of problems when their fires are surveyed by piloted aircrafts. For one thing, those aircrafts might not be able to fly in specific locations at night, meaning the firefighters lose valuable time when the fire may be easier to control.
But there are ways around these problems. One of the most exciting advances in wildland firefighting technology are surveillance drones. These devices, often used by the army, are equipped with thermal and regular imaging cameras that track the fire’s behavior. Drones, however, are expensive, so they have not yet been fully adopted. As the technology advances, however, and drones become cheaper, we will likely see more drones on firefighting teams.
Virtual reality technology appears to have applications in all areas of society, and wildland firefighting is no exception. Firefighters use virtual reality to assist with training programs. Becoming a smokejumper, for instance, requires training regarding safety regulations and cargo retrieval procedures. To help create a safe environment, first-time smokejumpers sometimes take refresher courses using virtual reality simulators. The simulators are three-dimensional and have the same characteristics as an actual parachute would have in a real situation.