Project NOAH continues to answer the call of Disaster Risk Reduction, and this commitment was once again tested by the recent Mt. Apo forest fires.
March 26 marked this year’s Black Saturday of the Holy Week, and in the peak of Mount Apo, a high time for hikers and nature enthusiasts to pay a visit. This year however, a mishap from the flocks of hikers caused a wild fire that eventually ate up 111 hectares of protected forest land in a span of two weeks.
A week after the forest fire started, it had already burned a land area of 102 hectares. This urged the Davao Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (RDRRMC) who recognized the persistence of the fire to ask help from various agencies and volunteers. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was one of the agencies tapped where representatives from Project NOAH stepped up and contributed to this cause.
The rugged terrain surrounding Mt. Apo prevented access by land vehicles and the team required the help of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Project NOAH utilized thermal imaging as a tool to correctly locate active fire areas, enabling a more focused fire mitigation effort. The thermal camera has a special lens that focuses on the emitted infrared energy (heat) which is converted into an electronic signal, processed to produce a detailed thermal image. The thermal camera measures and displays a thermal profile of objects in relation to the temperature of surrounding objects. Thermal and digital aerial images collected using the helicopters of the PAF were the first orders of the day as the ground personnel waited for instructions.
In addition to the thermal images, satellite imagery processed by the Project NOAH team and the NOAH DREAM Project were also provided. This empowered their local mapping teams, who were able to measure the area affected by the fire and estimate the rate of its advance. A visual base-map was now available to the planning team, and was used as the basis for where to set-up their fire lines which usually required 4 days to build.
Two weeks after the event, the fire extended to 111 hectares where only two active fire heads remain. Rains finally punctuated the efforts of the incident management team as it poured on for two days putting off the remainder of the fire. Although fire and smoke are no longer observed, a final thermal scan is presently awaited by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to finally declare the area as clear of fire.