FCT NOVA leads research for the development of support tools for decision making in rural firefighting


Luis Oliveira, professor and researcher from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of NOVA School of Science and Technology, is the coordinator of the project foRESTER, which objective is to create a prototype of a decision support system to improve the management of human and technical resources, allowing a more effective rural firefighting.

Scheduled to end in January, the team conducted the project's final workshop in November, in Mação, where the scientific results of their research  work were presented - A Combined sensor network with fire propagation modelling integrated in a decision support system for fighting forest fires.

For the execution of the project, a multidisciplinary team, from diverse scientific areas, was formed, with the collaboration of several entities, including the Mação City Council. The primary goal of this project was to develop technological tools that would allow broader support for decision-making in rural fire fighting. The various tools that have been developed make it possible to optimise the placement of technical and human resources in the most appropriate locations for fighting fires more quickly and efficiently, therefore preventing their evolution and propagation.

With this research, the technical components of the MACFire system, a pioneering project at national level, developed by Mação Municipality more than 10 years ago, will be reinforced with the tools developed, which will make it possible to obtain reliable information about the territory and help decision making with less uncertainty.

"Every year the Portuguese territory is the stage for several fires that, unfortunately, devastate mainly the interior of the country. foRESTER is not a definitive solution, but we believe that it is a crucial step towards being able to fight fires with all the technological and intellectual material at our disposal, especially considering that climate change is expected to worsen in the next few years", explains Luís Bica Oliveira, Professor at FCT NOVA and coordinator of the project.

The foRESTER project counts with several innovations for the best information processing and interpretation, namely:

  • The Creation of an intelligent and reconfigurable multi-sensor node

In the scope of foRESTER, a low cost multi-sensor terminal node was developed, using an energy efficient interface. One of the critical advantages of this multi-sensor node is the possibility to access advanced images to analyse fire fronts and periodic communications with the decision support system. The existence of real-time sensing is necessary to simulate fire propagation, especially for a situation of rapid acceleration that occurs with extreme fires.

  • Land cover mapping and satellite image processing

The development of soil occupation cover and usage maps, updated before and during the fire season, was also part of foRESTER tasks, in order to be applied by the fire spread simulator and to provide updated satellite images with a excellenter resolution.

  • Simulation of fire propagation

This project has additionally allowed the compilation of data for the execution of fire propagation forecasts in almost real time, which can support the better decision-making for fire suppression, with the supply of simple maps of the expected evolution probability in forest fires.

  • foRESTER decision support system

The prototype system developed under foRESTER allows for optimised data fusion, early warning methods and historical consultation and analysis, which are fundamental techniques for supporting interaction between field operatives and the decision-making process itself during the fire suppression process.

Led by a research team from CTS-UNINOVA of FCT NOVA, foRESTER counted with the participation of the Direção-Geral do Território (DGT), Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA), CESAM laboratory of the University of Aveiro, NOVA-IMS, and the Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT) Lisboa.