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The Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) at San Jose State University, alongside various partners and researchers, conducted groundbreaking research on California wildfires in a canyon near Salinas. This vast experiment aimed to comprehend wildfire behavior in challenging canyon terrain, crucial due to its historically understudied nature and high risk for firefighters. Employing cutting-edge technology including drones and mobile Doppler radar, researchers captured invaluable data on the fire’s behavior, plume dynamics, and intensity. The controlled burn, the largest of its kind in a canyon, facilitated the collection of detailed information instrumental in refining mathematical models for predicting fire behavior in complex terrains. The experiment’s success, carefully planned and coordinated with multiple agencies, promises advancements in fire safety, aiding both firefighters and communities. Utilizing drones equipped with infrared and hyperspectral cameras allowed precise mapping and detailed information collection, enabling the calculation of the burn extent and assisting in accurate wildfire modeling. The team’s efforts, including industry partners’ participation in testing protective measures for utility poles, promise far-reaching benefits by enhancing wildfire models. The experiment’s success signifies a significant milestone in fire weather research, heralding the potential for improved safety measures and predictions, fulfilling a decade-long goal for the researchers. The comprehensive data collected during this groundbreaking experiment aims to enhance wildfire models and safety measures, benefiting not only Californians but also aiding firefighter safety in challenging terrains like canyons, significantly advancing the understanding and prediction of wildfires.


SF Chronicle