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Using Next-Gen Software and Technology to Support Wildfire Recovery

Wildfire reclamation and recovery is an important job in some regions of our Earth. Meant to help repair land that has been ravaged by wildfire, these efforts save the homes of wildlife and restore beauty throughout some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes nature has to offer. With that in mind, a college professor from Idaho State University recently pioneered a comprehensive computerized mapping system that is meant to support wildfire recovery efforts around the world.

Using Big Data to Help Mother Nature

Known as the Rehabilitation Capability Convergence for Ecosystem Recovery, or simply RECOVER for short, the software was developed by a team of experts led by Professor Keith Weber, director of the Geographic Information System Training and Research Center at Idaho State University. Work on the project initially began in 2012, complete with a NASA-sponsored grant, when they sought out to use satellite imagery and next-gen computer software to track conditions in local soil, vegetation and topography. The software even provides information into local wildlife habitats.

RECOVER was tested extensively in 2013, and it was even used to combat 2015’s Soda fire in Idaho that affected nearly 290,000 acres of land. According to Professor Weber, the RECOVER software is able to save local officials four whole days of hands-on work when fighting fires of a similar size.

Weber touted his software solution by saying: “What we’ve learned is even with a fire of that size, RECOVER can easily handle that.”

A Modern Replacement to Outdated Technology

The RECOVER utility is a modern replacement to outdated technology. In the past, land managers had to dig through numerous different websites to find the various datasets that RECOVER tracks. Not only does this decrease the amount of time it takes to access these figures in the first place, but it also increases the accuracy and validity of information by eliminating third-party sources that may or may not be accurate to begin with.

RECOVER’s process is quite simple. During the initial testing phase, state officials would supply Weber with GPS coordinates immediately after a wildfire was contained. By entering these coordinates into his proprietary, cloud-based platform, he is able to generate a detailed map that provides all of the pertinent information. These results are then sent back to the requesting agency, via an online URL, in a process that takes approximately five minutes.

This is easily contrasted with traditional methods to see the how efficient the RECOVER software truly is. In the past, officials were forced to visit each of the affected sites and gather this kind of information by hand in a time-consuming and laborious process.

Complicating matters even more is the fact that an Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation plan must be submitted, complete with cost estimations, within 14 days after a fire is extinguished. Having instantaneous access to a digital database of metrics and statistics like this could mean the difference between meeting that 14-day deadline or not.

When IT and Nature Join Forces

Professor Weber’s RECOVER software is a perfect example of what can happen when IT and nature join forces. While it uses have mainly been limited to the state of Idaho, officials from nearby states, including Arizona and California, are already showing interest in this impressive new technology; and it’s all possible because of the advancements we’ve seen in data storage and accessibility over the past few years.

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