Korea Forest Service adopts ICT to prevent bushfires

The Korea Forest Service (KFS) has been increasingly adopting smart technology to better monitor forest fires.

The forestry body, which oversees the conservation of forests and the protection of people from natural disasters, said it has been using drones for fire observation, and other information and communication technology (ICT) equipment such as temperature sensors and thermal imaging cameras.

Korea is witnessing increasing cases of bushfires. The KFS said the country had 650 such fires in 2019 that burned 3,254 hectares of land.

Over the past 10 years, the number of forest fires has increased by 31 percent and the total area burnt by 264 percent. Illegal incineration of waste is a common cause of many bushfires, the KFS added.

To thoroughly monitor bushfires and landslides, the KFS has been utilizing a scientific and systematic approach ― it launched a smart forest disaster response team in August 2019 and has actively used smart technologies for forest management.

Among the smart technologies the agency has adopted, drones are widely used it said. Taking advantage of drones, the KFS has been thoroughly monitoring forests along the eastern coast in Gangwon Province.

The KFS said drones are increasingly used as they help the agency reduce the size of its workforce. Drones also allow for the service to practice and encourage social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Amid the virus outbreak, it is getting difficult to deploy a large workforce to monitor bushfires during this critical fire danger period, so we are increasingly using drones to screen bushfire-vulnerable areas,” a KFS official said.

The forestry body’s bushfire control team designated a “critical fire danger period” for about a month from March 14 to April 15 to ramp up safety precautions.

During this period, the KFS is operating 29 drones to crack down on illegal incineration of waste and unauthorized entry into forests in the Goseong, Sokcho, Yangyang, Gangneung, Donghae and Samcheok areas of the province.

Given this year’s spring will be warmer and drier with little rain compared to previous years, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration, the KFS said there needs be more focus on preventing bushfires.

The KFS said 70 percent of bushfires occur during the dry and windy spring or autumn seasons. Stating that the dry climate, westerly winds and the mountainous terrain affect the frequency and degree of forest fires, it added people who visit forests during the February to April period, which is an extremely dry season, should be more careful in preventing forest fires.

“As chances for bushfires are higher in this dry spring season, we are urging people to pay more attention to prevention,” the official said.