Fighting Fires on Four Wheels

Fighting Fires on Four Wheels

Daytona Everett

San Jose State University is fighting wildfires with new technology. As wildfires sweep across California, the university’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory is operating a Mobile Fire Lab.

NBC Bay Area reports the device “measures massive smoke columns using light impulses and can help forecast fire behavior.”

The lab helped firefighters in the Carr Fire in Redding make a quick decision where to drop their fire retardant.

“Measuring winds at a fire front is critical to understanding where it may go,” Craig Clements, SJSU Associate Professor and director of the program, said.

The Mobile Fire Lab was requested for the first time during the 2013 Idyllwild Fire.

“Then we realized that we couldn’t get asked because we didn’t have the right qualifications,” Clements said. “So we worked with the Forest Service and we were sponsored with the Forest Service to maintain what’s called a ‘red card’.”

A ‘red card’ allows the researcher to get on to the fire scene.

Cal Fire told KMIR the device is in the “testing phase” but has a possibility of being implemented into other units such as the Coachella Valley. Clements said he envisions every fire engine with its own mobile fire lab.

“That’s kind of the futuristic dream of capability,” he said. “It could be five or ten years away.”

The Fire Weather Research Lab leaves Sunday to help fight fires in Idaho. The lab hopes to unveil a new radar used to analyze the formation of fire whirls in the Spring.