Sunday 18 August, 2019

Met Service develops bush fire forecast tool

Minister without Portfolio, Daryl Vaz (second left), officially hands over 33 desktop computers to Local Government Minister, Desmond McKenzie, at the Local Government Ministry in St Andrew, for the creation of a local bus fire warning index. Looking on (l-r) are: Director of the Met Service, Evan Thompson; and Jamaica Fire Brigade Commissioner, Stewart Beckford.

Minister without Portfolio, Daryl Vaz (second left), officially hands over 33 desktop computers to Local Government Minister, Desmond McKenzie, at the Local Government Ministry in St Andrew, for the creation of a local bus fire warning index. Looking on (l-r) are: Director of the Met Service, Evan Thompson; and Jamaica Fire Brigade Commissioner, Stewart Beckford.

The Meteorological Service, Jamaica has developed a one-to-five-day forecast tool to predict the likely outbreak of bush fires in Jamaica.

The initiative involved support from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology.

The forecast tool was adapted from the North American Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which measures soil moisture to determine forest fire potential.

It is part of a project by the Met Service in partnership with the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), to establish a comprehensive bush fire warning index for the island.

“What this project seeks to do is to customise the index to address the specific needs of each parish and area in the country so that when the fire brigade has to issue warnings, it is specific to the local area and what is there,” said Project Assistant with the Met Service, Candace Charlton.

She was speaking at a recent ceremony at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development’s Hagley Park Road offices in St Andrew to hand over 33 computers to the JFB to support the establishment of the warning index.

The index is to incorporate information on slopes, elevation, vegetation distribution, soil types and population density and agricultural land use, which should aid in predicting potential bush fire outbreaks and develop warning protocols.

Charlton said other components of the bush fire warning index project are: conducting pilot site testing to ensure that what is created is effective and useful; developing an alerting protocol; and undertaking a public education and awareness campaign.

The 33 desktop computers presented to the JFB have been preloaded with the data-gathering software and global positioning system that are needed to build the index.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, said the donation of the equipment is “timely and will strengthen the capacity of the JFB”.

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