Southern California Fires of 1993

Key Investigator: James A. Brass

Over the years, NASA Ames's Earth System Science and Aircraft Operations personnel and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)'s Riverside Fire Lab have collaborated in researching the effects of biomass combustion and, in turn, using the results of their research to assist other agencies in combating fires. The collaboration of these agencies has played a significant part in combating previous disasters, such as the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 and the Oakland Hills Fires of 1991 . Using a thematic mapper simulator aboard NASA's C-130 and ER-2 aircraft, a view of many fires, obtained in a short period of time, can be provided to firefighters, enabling them to make resource and personnel decisions quickly and decisively. In the fall of 1993, this collaboration proved equally efficient in the battle against fires in Southern California.

In late October-early November, a twin-engine aircraft from Los Angeles County Fire Department, carrying an Airborne Infrared Disaster Assessment System (AIRDAS) scanner flew over the fires. Built at Ames in cooperation with the USFS to meet their fire fighting needs, the AIRDAS instrument covered one of the area's first large blazes, the *Green Meadow* fire which, fanned by the first wave of Santa Ana winds, grew to 38,000 acres. The AIRDAS instrument sent the first thermal images of this fire to Los Angeles County personnel for analysis of the fire situation.

As additional Santa Ana winds occurred, four new fires flared up bringing the total of major fires to 21. On November 3, at the request of the USFS, California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Office of Emergency Services and L.A. County, NASA's C-130B aircraft, equipped with the thematic mapper simulator, flew over the fires in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains obtaining near real time images, maps and thermal video data of the active fire lines and hot spots (Figure 1).

Although such procedures have been used in previous firestorms, the flights over the Santa Monica and Malibu fires marked the first time that researchers detected fire movement, direction and speed of multiple fires over such an extensive area as the Los Angeles Basin. Figure 2 is a composite image of the Malibu coast taken in the morning (top) and in the afternoon (bottom) of November 3. Burned and burning areas are indicated in orange and yellow.

The timely and accurate data of fire activity for both the Altadena and Malibu fires was delivered to the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the USFS for assessment and distribution to the incident commanders. The efficient use of technology and research enabled fire fighting agencies to mobilize personnel to critical areas, thus saving lives and property.

COLLABORATORS: Medium Altitude Mission Branch and High Altitude Mission Branch, NASA Ames Research Center; ATAC; U.S. Forest Service; Los Angeles County Fire Department.

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