"HI-RISE" Fire Weather Project Tested During
Prescribed Burn in Texas
The National Weather Service, Texas Forest Service, USDA-Agricultural Research Station and Canadian-based Aventech, Inc. joined forces (April 21) to test an upper air data collection system designed to aid ground crews battling forest fires or other hazardous events. Dubbed the Hazardous Incident - Rapid In-flight Support Effort (HI-RISE), the project utilized an aircraft-mounted meteorological sensing instrument during flyovers of a prescribed burn at Camp Swift, a Texas National Guard training site in Bastrop County (near Austin).
Developed by Aventech, the experimental instrument package was equipped with the sensors and an IRIDIUM satellite telemetry system allowing it to collect and transmit vertical upper air sounding data (wind speed/direction, relative humidity, air pressure, temperature) via the satellite to Incident Meteorologists (IMETS) at the burn site - in real time. Some flyovers reached a height of 13,500 feet.
National Weather Service Southern Region Fire Weather Program Manager Paul Witsaman and WFO San Antonio Forecaster Monte Oaks were on hand for the test, along with IMETS Greg Murdoch and Seth Nagle (WFO Midland/Odessa). Science and Operations Officer Jon Zeitler also received the data in real time at the office in San Antonio and used it to produce parallel fire weather forecasts in support of the on-site incident team.
Witsaman believes the project represents a real leap forward in fire weather forecasting and management. "We've never had this kind of data at a fire incident before," he said. "We always had to rely strictly on ground level observations. This allows us to produce more accurate spot fire weather forecasts in real time -- and with a much higher degree of confidence."
He says additional tests in Texas and Idaho are possible this year and hopes more will follow. "HI-RISE could become a standard weapon in the arsenal incident commanders use to manage prescribed burns, wildfires and other hazardous incidents. As the system continues to prove its utility and if funding is available - that could happen within the next five years," he added.
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