California firefighters from some of the areas hardest hit by wildland fires are training on a new tool for their response efforts—a mobile application to harness wildfire situational awareness data. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently conducted a virtual training on its Team Awareness Kit (TAK) that provides such features as video sharing, location tracking of fire equipment, fire perimeters from aircraft, and fire model forecasts.
TAK is a geospatial mapping and common operating picture program developed for the military special operations community. The civilian version is available on the Google Play Store and is easily adapted to the wildland fire service. During the 2020 fire season, it was used to share live tracking information from the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) program on the Blue Ridge and Silverado Fires in California. The tool helped the local communities contain the fire threat and manage evacuations using the real-time perimeters and fire forecasts delivered from FIRIS. Delivering FIRIS data to TAK users on the ground provided cutting edge integration of information.
“DHS S&T is committed to providing firefighters the tools they need to communicate with each other, especially as they battle the increasing threats of the wildland fire season. Putting TAK in the hands of all wildland firefighters enables these first responders to communicate with voice and data whenever and wherever possible,” explained S&T Program Manager Denis Gusty.
DHS S&T collaborated with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), FIRIS, Intterra, and the WIFIRE Lab at University of California-San Diego to provide this training for 20 firefighters from Southern California wildfire response communities covering Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties, in addition to other support agencies.
The training was done in conjunction with FIRIS and the City of Corona Fire Department. The session also leveraged national interagency wildfire efforts, including a nationwide TAK server hosted by the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, the same TAK server that supported the 2020 fires in Colorado and California. The City of Corona, the Colorado Center of Excellence and City of Boulder also brought their field experience using TAK for firefighting.
This partnership started with the DHS S&T publication, “Wildland Urban Interface Fire Operational Requirements and Capability Analysis: Report of Findings.” Technology subject matter experts from the partner agencies leveraged this report to work together to integrate these technologies, starting with TAK and FIRIS.
“We are very pleased with the success of this first training. We hope that the TAK tool will see more widespread use to help first responders precisely identify, track and coordinate locations and resources during wildfire incident response,” said Gusty.