New website to help firefighters 'bust fires'

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A research meteorologist in Southern California has created a tool to help firefighters fight wildfires.

Shyh-Chin Chen created the website created the app FireBuster after witnessing the Southern California wildfires in 2007.

"The fire was burning right on my doorstep, and it jumped over my house," said Chen, forest service research meteorologist for the Pacific Southwest Research Station. "A few houses behind ours got burned and a few houses ahead of us."

The flames torched hundreds of thousands of acres. It was so large it could be seen from space. More than 1 million people were evacuated and 10 were killed.

"I had never been so close to a fire," Chen said.

That memory inspired the meteorologist to create a website that could provide firefighters with an accurate, high-resolution weather forecast.

"Our website will be able to give them locations with the next 72 hours of forecast — the wind direction, wind speed, humidity, temperature," Chen said.

The idea is firefighters could click on a location and get weather conditions in a matter of seconds. They're then prepared to make decisions on their plan of attack.

The information is gathered by fire meteorologists at geographical area coordinator centers. It's then compiled into one website, making it quick and easy for firefighters to access in the field.

"We want information to be fast and precise," Chen said.

FireBuster is currently being tested in Southern California. If all goes well, other regions will be added to the website.


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