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Berkeley, Calif. (UPI) Oct 22, 2013
As firefighters recover from a record wildfire season in the U.S. West, scientists say it's time to give them a 21st century tool: a fire-spotting satellite.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say satellites could view the Western states almost continuously, taking pictures of the ground every few seconds in search of hot spots that could be newly ignited wildfires.
Such a satellite using state-of-the-art sensors and analysis software to minimize false alarms could be built for several hundred million dollars, either by government or private entities, the researchers said.
They've completed a design proposal for just such as satellite, they said, and even given it a name -- the Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit or FUEGO.
"If we had information on the location of fires when they were smaller, then we could take appropriate actions quicker and more easily, including preparing for evacuation," said fire expert Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management. "Wildfires would be smaller in scale if you could detect them before they got too big, like less than an acre."
With global warming, Stephens said, wildfires are expected to become more frequent and more extensive. This year alone, California firefighters responded to more than 6,000 wildfires, 1,600 more than average.
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