‘Leading the nation’: Officials roll out Oklahoma-developed fire hotspot notification tool

KTUL - February 19, 2024 6:14 am

Officials rolled out a new fire detection and response tool on Friday at the National Weather Service office in Norman.

It was years in the making—and developed in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Forestry Services announced the hotspot notification tool alongside the NWS. The new system allows officials to drastically reduce the time it takes to send alerts to local responders.

What used to take up to 90 minutes now takes around six.

Officials have been working on the system’s development since 2015.

Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service., shared, “Oklahoma what I saw today, you’re all leading the nation in this incredible effort to be able to get this done, and get it done in… the end really to save lives.”

Forestry Services called the system groundbreaking.

Once the weather service sees a hotspot, the agency can send out notifications over text.

It uses satellites to find the hotspots—and can also help agencies prepare days in advance to get resources ready.

Mark Goeller, state forester and director of forestry services, explained, “We notify them before the 911 call even comes out. That’s critical for response for saving lives and property.”

Officials can use the system to drop polygons as is done during tornadoes to give responders and the public a better idea of where to expect danger.

According to Goeller, local fire departments reported a staggering number of fires just last year.

“They reported over 25,000 fires in the state for 2023. That’s incredible,” he asserted.

The weather service also announced two other new initiatives coming down the pipeline.

One is a rollout for heat assessment tools. The other was using cloud-based data to give responders on the field information wherever they are.

 

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