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Fire Chief Calls for New Technology to Fight Wildland Fires


Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg (Ret.), the chair of the IAFC’s Wildland Fire Policy Committee, called for Congress to support the development of technology to improve the response to wildland fires. Chief Litzenberg, testified before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee about federal wildland fire research. 

While highlighting the current work for federal agencies, like U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Chief Litzenberg explained how developing technology can be used to transform wildland fires. Specifically, he discussed how Unmanned Aircraft Systems can hover above a fire and prove real-time imagery, and how remote-sensing can be used to develop a better understanding of areas where there is the risk of drought and wildland fires. Chief Litzenberg also discussed the need for new technology, such as real-time interactive fire maps and technology to locate firefighters on the fireground. He also recommended that Congress support the development of a standard warning system for wildland fires, such as the Richter Scale provides for earthquakes. 

Chief Litzenberg also highlighted how remote sensing and predictive analysis can guide community preparedness programs, like the IAFC’s Ready, Set, Go! program. He recommended that the science agencies work with other federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local governments to integrate this new technology in firefighting operations. He also recommended using educational and non-governmental organizations, such as the IAFC, to educate the nation’s fire and emergency service about new technology and other scientific research to provide health and safety on the fireground. 

“Greater federal research into satellites, climate, and technology can revolutionize wildland fire preparedness and response,” testified Chief Litzenberg. “We can develop an integrated picture of both the fireground and surrounding region. This will allow us to effectively save lives and property in the face of the growing wildland fire problem.” 

You can read Chief Litzenberg’s full prepared statement by downloading this PDF.

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