Super Tech On Wildfires - After Action Report
Published: 3/26/2020
Author: Chief Kim Zagaris, WFCA Wildfire Policy and Technology Advisor

The Fire Integrated Real-time Intelligence System (FIRIS) Pilot Program demonstrated enhanced wildfire situational awareness for first responders by combining intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities with accurate, real-time wildland fire spread modeling and an integrated common operational software platform for sharing and accessing information. 

FIRIS was the first fully integrated approach to providing intelligence information for the initial response. In order to accomplish this mission, FRIS would launch upon request, a dedicated aircraft outfitted with technology. Then direct streaming of data was delivered to the advanced computing environment at the University of California San Diego WIFIRE. Then WIFIRE was able to provide real-time modeling to field units and an array of concept reviewers. This report is the result of this beta test and proof of concept.

From my perspective, one of the greatest successes of the FIRIS pilot program was the open source nature of the project, and the collaborative approach by our federal, state and local government agency partners and professional contract staff.

The FIRIS program demonstrated the operational value of rapid ISR and fire prediction modeling during initial response operations. Over a 150-day period, the program supported over 45 wildfire incidents thru 60+ aircraft flights, 225 fire models, and provided 24/7 support during the most intense fire weather periods. The following fire incidents highlight some of the operational successes of FIRIS:

  • Palisades Fire - The responding incident management team (IMT) knew where the worst potential damage was going to occur because of FIRIS perimeters and models. The IMT arrived knowing exactly where the fire was and what it was doing.
  • Tick Fire – FIRIS provided overhead situational awareness in the first 3 hours of the Tick Fire. Los Angeles County Fire determined evacuation needs within 15 minutes of receiving a perimeter and prediction model. This information was used not only for evacuation decisions, but also to keep the public and media well informed of the fire’s progress and containment efforts. Having access to this information early into the incident kept all stakeholders well informed from start to finish.
  • Maria Fire – Evacuations were ordered within 20 minutes of dispatch on the Maria incident based on FIRIS fire predictions. Emergency management and law enforcement agencies relied on real-time intelligence to support multi-agency objectives. 
  • Wendy Fire – Direct communication with the FIRIS aircraft allowed the Incident Commander to refocus ISR efforts on recent fire activity and emerging areas of interest during the initial response.
  • Getty Fire – The LAFD Fire Chief shared perimeters and models with law enforcement and used FIRIS real-time information to brief news media outlets and the public. Predictive models informed evacuations and fire suppression tactics.

You will find the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System After-Action Report here or available for download at


Kim Zagaris
Wildfire Policy and Technology Advisor

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