Israel Fighting Forest Fires with Matash Forecasting System

Israel Matash Forest Fire Forecasting

In 2010, a blazing forest fire in the Carmel region of Israel claimed 44 lives and caused the evacuation of over 17,000 people. In response to this deadly fire and the other 1,000 forest fires that frequently occur throughout Israel, the research department of the Ministry of Public Security developed Matash, a fire forecasting system.

The system uses a model known as the Weather Research Forecast (WRF), developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) along with other U.S. agencies, which predicts the behavior and outcomes of forest fires.

Drawn from two components, Matash collects both topographical data and atmospheric data. During a fire, the temperature, humidity precipitation, and wind direction and speed are crucial to determining the behavior of the fire. However, flammable materials and the moisture level of vegetation also affect the outcome of a forest fire. Matash calculates each component and the result from both the atmosphere and ground is a single picture of the fire displayed with a two-dimensional map of the ground and 3D imaging of the fire components, such as the heat ratio, fire advancement, and height of flames.

Matash also shows weather forecasts for the next three days. In just 15 minutes, Matash calculates and predicts the outcome of a fire for one hour ahead. In 30 minutes, it can predict the outcome for the next six hours. The system operates in English and updates four times a day.

Last fall, Besora Regev, the research director of Matash, and Shai Amram, the geographic systems information manager, demonstrated Matash’s potential to other countries. So far, Matash is used by all rescue and environmental agencies in Israel including the National Fire Authority and the JNF fire service. By using Matash, these agencies can decide how to act based on the advancement of the fire and its intensity. The information that Matash provides is crucial for evacuation, resources, and finding the best way to put out a forest fire.

Klien Leichman, Abigail. “Israel builds world’s first fire forecasting system” ISRAEL21c.
“The ‘Matash’ Fire-Prediction System” Ministry of Public Security- Fire & Rescue Services.