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Capitaine Jean-Michel DUMAZ

The strategy for forest fire prevention relies on early detection and the rapid deployment of resources. A joint workforce of patrols, which can mobilize various public services and numerous participants, monitors the Mediterranean forests. New technologies allow for forecasting and therefore complement the engagement on the ground using automatic surveillance systems. These technologies not only offer continuous availability but also the possibility to provide new data to the responders in regards to prevention, expertise and training.

Project Description
Between 2007-2012 the Bouches-du-Rhone Fire Department (SDIS13) has implemented an ambitious equipment acquisition plan that aims to install digital video cameras for forest fire detection at several elevated points. These video cameras, effective up to a 20km range and strategically located throughout a wide distribution, have become instrumental to the watchtowers during the forest fire season. During the other months of the year the cameras allow constant operational surveillance of the forests. The project aims to provide a complete view of the forest area within the Bouches-du-Rhne county. In total, eleven digital video cameras were installed to cover these sectors. The installation works were spread over time in order to facilitate financing. The European Regional Development Found (ERDF) financed two parts of the installation process, concerning the bordering areas between the counties of Bouches-du-Rhne and Var and the counties of Bouches-du-Rhne and Vaucluse, respectively.

Technical Description
The system functions on the basis of mast-mounted video cameras that carry out 360-degree rotations. The captured images are analyzed in real time on-site using an algorithm that identifies smoke resulting from combustion. Suspicious smoke then sets off an alarm transmitted instantly by radio to the SDIS13 operations room in Marseille. The Command and Dispatch Center, after eliminating any doubts by watching the live images, sends the response teams. The alert is raised with the help of a crosscheck between the video cameras and the reports from digital maps and satellite photos, which quickly identify the coordinates of the fire with high precision. The software for forest fire detection can be coupled with two other operational software programs, one used for the deployment of vehicles and the other to show a 3D mapping of the affected sector. The progressive interconnection of these tools allows responders to save time in deploying resources while simplifying the operations management.

Pursued Objectives
This equipment offers multiple applications, in various areas for forest firefighting and prevention:

a) Surveillance
Through its network implementation the system allows surveillance of the forests complementary to the ground patrol, while widening the range of the monitored zones and time periods, due to a continuous functioning of the system, 24/7. Additionally it provides the firefighters with very precise indications of the smoke coordinates with the use of GPS, and thus limits the risk of errors and reduces the response transit times. The images relayed to the Command and Dispatch Center also provide a better understanding of the fire and allow leaders to deploy the resources most effectively during situations of simultaneous fires.

b) Researching Fire Causes Expertise and Analysis

The conservation of the images in digital format permits their posterior use for investigation or expertise purposes. The time and geographic data are made available to public or justice services, where they can be utilized to better understand the origin of the fire.

c) Reduction of Set Fires

Forest surveillance can be an additional factor for deterrence and can therefore reduce the number of fires set criminally.

d) Experience Feedback
The data provided by the system can be made available to multidisciplinary teams responsible for analysis and experience feedback. The images along with the time and geographic data offer valuable insight for the comprehension of the propagation phenomena. Taken all together this new information can be added to existing data sets in the PROMETHEE database to be used by all who play a role in the the prevention of forest fires.

e) Analysis of the Efficiency of Preventative Measures

Setting up video cameras for automatic supervision provides access to a stock of images that can be viewed posterior to the fires in order to better evaluate the effectiveness of the preventive actions taken, especially in terrain management. The behavior of fires, notably the interface between different types of vegetation, can also be better understood.

f) Information - Training
The images coming from the video surveillance system can be advantageously exploited to publish awareness material or integrated into training tools used for various players of forest firefighting and prevention.

g) Research
The cache of data that consists of the images and the time and geographic information coming from the automatic detection system can be made available to the research teams and serve as support for elaboration or the improvement of propagation models.

h) Quality Standards
The images and data from the automatic detection system can be utilized within quality working groups aiming to improve the diffusion of knowledge for the origins and phenomena of forest fire propagation.