LA Fire Department using new technology to fight flames

The power of fire. Flames that can get as hot as 2500 degrees or more. When wind-driven, they destroy, injure and kill.

Now, the Los Angeles Fire Department is using the power of computers to fight the power of flames.

In a show and tell in front of Fire Station 109 on Mulholland Drive, firefighters showed what can be done with predictive technology. They showed how -- when using a tablet technology app -- it's possible to take what's known about a fire, and coupled with weather and wind conditions, determine what it's likely to do.

Councilman Mike Bonin has long wanted to see this. One of the first things he did after being sworn in was to say he wanted this type of tablet technology to be used by the city.

From the podium he told reporters, "What's exciting today is we are talking about a game changing app and it's called WiFIRE."

Some 16 years ago, LA Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas used paper maps and a plastic triangle to predict fire behavior.
Holding his invention he said, "I made this tool. I overlaid it on a map and then every 30 minutes we would have a projection of where the fire was going to."

The new WiFire app, created at the University of California at San Diego's Super Computer Lab, is more than he had hoped for and is proud to say Los Angeles is the first fire department to use it.

In this area, he says this type of tool is important to have.

"We have the constant danger because we're entering the 6th year of drought to our residents, to our firefighters as we face strong winds combined with historically dry conditions," Chief Terrazas said.

Is WiFire reliable when mother nature can throw rogue winds at firefighters?

Assistant LA Fire Chief Carlos Calvillo says, "We're always up against Mother Nature, right? So with fire resources even as good as they are, we're sometimes at the mercy of mother nature."

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