The Cape Aflame Project Team

The Fire Tracers

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“During the Muizenberg Fire, sponsors afforded us real-time photographs on the morning of Wednesday, 4 March (and, again, after the fire) from satellites passing overhead. The gathered information – using infrared sensors and cameras – enabled us to plot maps and burnt areas and build a more complete picture.Eyewitness accounts from people working in the Operations Section, the Operations Section Chief, Divisional Supervisors and Crew Leaders make up our final source of information. Their feedback allows us to ascertain intermediate progression data following the morning recce flights.

Armed with this data – together with Google Earth images loaded after the fire – I was able to determine ‘best guesstimate’ firelines and determine the fire’s speed and progress.

Once the Muizenberg Fire had been extinguished, its perimeter was walked with a GPS to fix the fireline precisely. I used this extremely accurate information to plot the final layer of the progression map. The walked fireline also allows us to update veld-age maps at the end of each fire season. The VWS Planning Section tries to walk all fires extending over one hectare to provide the base data for these veld-age maps.

We use geographical information system (GIS) software to prepare the final maps. It is also the source of most of the mapping base data we use in determining possible strategies. In addition to the GIS software, we use other computer packages and applications during and after the fire to assist with data capture and map preparation.”

Peter Wynne – VWS Planning Section