Every summer thousands of acres of forests are destroyed in Europe, as elsewhere in the world, by forest fires. European countries with warmer climates, such as the new ESA Member State Portugal, are particularly hard hit. The result is considerable environmental and economic damage and, regrettably, sometimes loss of life.
A new one-year contract, awarded by ESA to the Portuguese company Critical Software, will help to combat these fires, many of which unfortunately are caused by arsonists. Critical Software, together with the sub-contractor CNIG, the Portuguese National Centre for Geographic Information, will be responsible for improving the existing fire-prevention system by creating an easy-to-use demonstration system for fire risk assessment called PREMFIRE.
PREMFIRE will expand the capabilities of RISE, the system presently used by Portugal’s Civil Protection agency (SNPC). Remote sensing data will be used to generate and integrate fire risk maps and the system will automatically send alarms to fire units located within range of the major areas at risk. Fire fighters in the field will be able to receive and exchange data supplied by Earth observation satellites in near real time on hand-held terminals.
Once the system is fully developed and in use, the Portuguese emergency services will be able to reach and deal with fires much quicker. Premfire will help to save lives and assist the Portuguese authorities to protect their natural heritage.