The data collected will help land managers make decisions about where to perform different types of fuel treatment.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Wildfire season is winding down and California has been relatively lucky in terms of fire impact, but recent years have proven that wildfires will continue to increase as climate change continues. worsens and the forests are overgrown.

With eight of the ten largest and deadliest fires occurring in the past five years, authorities, governments and researchers are scrambling to find solutions to this crisis.

The Gigafire Project, led by Johnathon Greenberg and Erin Hanan of the University of Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, is technically three projects in collaboration with CalFire and the California Air Resources board. The name comes from the term “giga fire”, referring to a fire that reaches more than one million acres, which first occurred in 2020 with the August fire complex.

The main objective of the project is “to try to map the spatial distribution of fuels that contribute to increasingly catastrophic wildfires, and to examine the impacts of fuel treatments on the future conditions of the fuels themselves, but also on carbon sequestration and water quality as well,” according to Greenberg.

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Combustible mapping is incredibly beneficial for finding exactly where the most overgrown and fire-prone areas are. This work was once done manually by fire crews on the ground and was expensive and backbreaking work.

Advanced technologies contribute to their goal of mapping the fuels of the entire state of California.

“The project is actually a combination of advanced modeling and remote sensing, part of which will be based on LIDAR, but also part on satellite imagery,” Greenberg said. “We kind of put together a lot of different information as well as sort of algorithms to kind of understand these very complicated systems.”

The data collected will help land managers make decisions about where to perform different types of fuel treatment. Treatments consist of thinning the trees, laddering fuels and carrying out controlled burns.

“Land managers will have better choices about where to place these fuel treatments, can save time and effort, and hopefully ultimately help reduce the type of severity of wildfires and in a climate in rapidly evolving,” Greenberg said.

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