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Germany

Effective Ways of Preventing Forest Fires

The best way to minimize the damage caused by forest fires is to detect them at an early stage.

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In Europe, up to 10,000 square kilometers (3900 square miles) of vegetation are destroyed by fire annualy.

It's estimated that forest fires in Germany cause millions of euro in damage every year. However, preventive measures and fire extinction cost several times this sum.

In order to minimize damage, forest fires have to be recognized as soon as possible.

Forest observation

Hundreds of observation towers have been built in German forests to help detect fires at an early stage. During the summers, trained staff closely monitors endangered areas.

But hiring people for such tasks is costly. Therefore scientists in Brandenburg developed an automated electronic warning system.

Brandenburg is an area with predominantly poor soils. The forests in this region are dominated by pine trees, characterized by a relatively high fire hazard.

In the tests, automatic cameras continuously surveyed endangered forests. Their task was to detect fire by the trail of smoke.

Computers automatically analyzed the data recorded by the cameras, using a specially developed software. It was able to recognize the dynamic features of smoke.

To avoid false alarms, the software was so sensitive that it could distinguish between smoke caused by fires and clouds, light reflections, and smoke from factories.

The Brandenburg researchers conducted several tests with controlled forest fires and then tried out the early warning system during the 1999 forest fire season.

During that time, 16 forest and field fires happened. All of them were detected and indicated by the cameras within the set time limit.

Since these experiments proved a success, other regions in Germany and some European countries also expressed an interest in this technology.

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