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UC San Diego Creates Software to Help Fight Wildfires Around California


By Joe Little • Published September 17, 2022 • Updated on September 18, 2022 at 10:17 pm

They aren’t firefighters. They aren’t even standing near the frontlines. Yet, a group of UC San Diego researchers have already helped fight more than a thousand vegetation fires in 2022.


“I’m super proud of what we’ve done,” smiled Jessica Block, Associate Director for Operational Programs, WIFIRE Lab.


WIFIRE is a UC San Diego-based program that provides real-time fire modeling and predictions for firefighters on the frontlines. That program is a small part of FIRIS: Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System.


FIRIS gathers information from a wildfire using infrared cameras, mountain-based cameras around the state, and data from firefighters. That information is quickly sent to WIFIRE inside the San Diego Supercomputer Center on UC San Diego’s campus. The WIFIRE program crunches the information and within five minutes sends back the information to Cal Fire and the California Office of Emergency Services.


“So that firefighters can know exactly where the fire is and where it’s going,” said Block. “We respond to every vegetation fire that begins in the State of California.”


Block said they’ve already analyzed information on more than a thousand vegetation fires this year.


“I’m really honored and humbled to be working on this program,” she smiled.


She added she’s also proud to be a part of the much larger FIRIS public private partnership.


“It’s pretty unusual for an academic group to be a part of a program like this,” Block said. “It’s a real altruistic program with good people that are actually making a difference and learning together how to make this process better over time.”