The Different Uses of Wireless Sensors for Wildfire Monitoring
Wildfire monitoring is essential to reducing wildfire risk and tackling some of the impacts of climate change. It’s vital to have accurate and up-to-date data to keep abreast of amu emerging wildfire risks.
Wireless sensors play a key role in helping governments, forestry organizations, park rangers, firefighters, and utility companies manage the risks posed by wildfires. In this blog post, we'll look at how wireless sensors can be used for wildfire monitoring — from early detection to optimizing tree growth — to help develop better strategies to protect people, property, and natural ecosystems during a fire emergency.
How do wireless sensors for wildfire monitoring work?
Wireless sensors for wildfire monitoring, such as LoRaWAN-based IoT sensors, are deployed in high-risk wildfire areas. They are able to recognize any unusual or unexpected changes in the air quality among the vegetation that could signal an impending fire incident.
What wireless sensors should measure
Wireless sensors for wildfire monitoring should measure the microclimate of the area they’re placed in. Importantly, they should measure and detect:
Changes in hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide levels.
The more advanced sensor systems use embedded machine learning algorithms to accurately and reliably detect real fires and to eliminate the risk of false positive alerts.
Where to install wireless sensors for wildfire monitoring
Wireless sensors should be installed high enough on trees to maximize their ability to quickly detect smoldering fires while also making them visually unobtrusive and reducing the risk of them being tampered with. In order to be fully protected, deploying a mesh network consisting of a series of sensors and gateways in strategic locations is necessary. Companies specializing in wildfire detection technology should be able to provide support with the most efficient deployment of sensors for a given territory.
For a truly scalable and reliable solution, look for systems that connect to wireless gateways using a suitable network protocol, such as LoRa. These long-range radio networks work in low coverage areas (remote forests are notoriously bad for network coverage) and speak to a cloud platform to ensure all data is collected and interpreted accurately in real-time.
Different uses of wireless sensors for wildfire monitoring
Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time and since wildfires are responsible for 20% of CO2 emissions, successfully tackling their deleterious effects represents a significant opportunity in the right against global warming.
An effective wildfire detection system offers other benefits too. Here are some reasons that you may wish to install IoT sensors on your land.
Dramatically reduced firefighting required
By being able to detect a fire at their smolder stage, firefighting resources can be dramatically reduced. The National Interagency Fire Center put their costs in 2021 at over 4 billion dollars, a number that has grown rapidly over the years.
During its smoldering phase, a fire spreads around ten times more slowly than when flames are present. Detecting a fire at this crucial stage means that firefighters are able to extinguish it quickly, safely and straightforwardly. Getting to a fire incident late greatly increases the risk of it turning into a devastating megafire.
Prevents economic damage
This article describes that in 2022, spending on forest fires by the state of Washington had almost tripled over a decade. This money could be well spent in other areas of public funding.
Timely and accurate fire detection ensures that municipalities can keep fire management under control.
Reduces risk and insurance liabilities
Forest fires are becoming increasingly more expensive for insurers, with many choosing not to offer wildfire insurance as it becomes a more risky business year after year. Insurance Group, Munich RE claims that insurers have paid out a running total of US $17bn so far on forest fires in the USA alone.
Saves human life and wildlife
A critical part of early detection using wireless sensor networks for wildfire monitoring is the impact on wildlife and human life. This doesn't start and end with the fire itself. The long-term harmful effects of fires far outweigh this. For example, animals searching for new habitats can create ecological imbalances, with food scarcity becoming a real long-term threat.
For humans, there are wide-ranging health impacts, including “premature mortality; increased morbidity including respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health, and other health outcomes; and health-related economic outcomes or healthcare costs,” according to a paper by Science Direct.
Reliable, repeatable data collection
A key use of wireless sensors for wildfire monitoring is their consistent and accurate data collection. This provides fire experts (whether part of local government, forestry organizations or private institutions) the information to conduct damage assessment mapping.
This is key, particularly for insurance companies who specialize in this area.
Forest fire managers can retrospectively understand the cause and the spread of fire along with where the most damage occurred. This information can greatly bolster future wildfire mitigation efforts and helps to keep the public informed of any developing scenarios.
More effective forest planning
Data collection has another use — effective forest management and planning. This is good news for those in the forestry business. Sometimes, far from being unwanted, a planned or prescribed forest fire can regenerate a whole ecosystem.
Data from wireless sensor networks allows forest management bodies to understand whether controlled fires are necessary and where they should be if so.
The data can also give insights with regard to vulnerable areas to account for when making planning decisions.
Prevent diseases and fight droughts
Wildfire sensors track air humidity and temperature to help detect fires, but they also have additional use in monitoring the general health of a tree or patch of forest.
By monitoring these things, it’s possible to create datasets that point to unhealthy forest biomes in the future and identify potential areas of drought.
Having this information quickly and readily available is a helpful tool for those who work in forest management, as it can help identify areas at the highest risk of forest fires.
These insights also allow managers to proactively manage their natural assets and support disease prevention, yield maximization and new planting decision-making.
Optimize tree growth and return-on-investment (ROI)
Using wireless sensor networks makes it possible to optimize tree growth, and for forestry organizations, this often means maximizing their ROI.
For much the same reasons as having data is helpful to avoid disease, looking at trends in air temperature and humidity when it comes to forest growth can point to useful tactics to improve growing conditions.
Of course, forest fire prevention has a vital role to play when it comes to forest health and tree growth. Catching a fire at the smolder stage is key to avoiding damage to some of the more established trees or parts of the forest.
We must have reliable data about wildfire behavior to make decisions that will protect our forests. For forestry organizations, continued investment in wildfire monitoring technology is essential to gathering this data. By staying up-to-date on the latest advances in wildfire monitoring, these organizations can make informed decisions about how best to protect our forests from the dangers of wildfires and, by doing so, minimize financial risks but also the cost to human life and wildlife.
If you manage a large area of vulnerable land or would benefit from keeping vital forest assets protected, we would be more than happy to discuss with you how our Silvanet wildfire detection solution can help.