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The use of distributed temperature sensing technology for monitoring wildland fire intensity and distribution.

TitleThe use of distributed temperature sensing technology for monitoring wildland fire intensity and distribution.
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsOchoa, CG, Cram, D, Hatch, CE, Tyler, SW
Conference NameAmerican Geophysical Union - Fall Meeting
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA

Distributed temperature sensing (DTS) technology offers a viable alternative for accurately measuring wildland fire intensity and distribution in real time applications. We conducted an experiment to test the use of DTS as an alternative technology to monitor prescribed fire temperatures in real time and across a broad spatial scale. The custom fiber-optic cable consisted of three fiber optic lines buffered by polyamide, copper, and polyvinyl chloride, respectively, each armored in a stainless steel tube backfilled with Nitrogen gas. The 150 m long cable was deployed in three different 20 by 26 m experimental plots of short-grass rangeland in central New Mexico. Cable was arranged to maximize coverage of the experimental plots and allow cross-comparison between two main parallel straight-line sections approximately 8 m apart. A DTS system recorded fire temperatures every three seconds and integrated every one meter. A series of five thermocouples attached to a datalogger were placed at selected locations along the cable and also recorded temperature data every three seconds on each fiber. Results indicate that in general there is good agreement between thermocouple-measured and DTS-measured temperatures. A close match in temperature between DTS and thermocouples was particularly observed during the rising limb but not so much during the decline. The metal armoring of the fiber-optic cable remained hot longer than the thermocouples after the flames had passed. The relatively short-duration, high-intensity, prescribed burn fire in each plot resulted in temperatures reaching up to 450 degrees Celsius. In addition, DTS data allow for illustration of the irregular nature of flame speed and travel path across the rangeland grasses, a phenomenon that was impossible to quantify without the use of this tool. This study adds to the understanding of using DTS as a new alternative tool for better characterizing wildland fire intensity, distribution and travel patterns, and establishes the baseline for expanding these test plot results to larger spatial scales.