Forest Fire Detection and Monitoring System in Nepal

Forest fires have adverse ecological and economic impacts and are a significant concern in many countries. In Nepal, forest fires damage more than 30 districts. An effective fire detection and monitoring system is essential for forest fire management. Given their large-area repetitive coverage, satellite data are helpful for near real-time fire detection, monitoring, and burnt area assessment. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites are being used extensively for detecting and monitoring forest fires across the globe.

Using fire data from MODIS sensors, ICIMOD’s SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) Initiative developed the Forest Fire Detection and Monitoring System in Nepal in close collaboration with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC),  Ministry of Forests and Environment, Government of Nepal.

The system provides information on historical forest fires and near real-time forest fires in Nepal. It performs automated data acquisition, processing, and reporting on fire locations and includes location information at 1 × 1 km resolution on active fires during the satellite’s twice-daily overpasses. The system assimilates active fire data thrice a day from NASA’s website. It automatically adds important information to these data, such as administrative unit (i.e. district, VDC, and ward number), protected area identification, land cover type, elevation, and slope.

The system emails forest fire incident reports to relevant stakeholders. Users can register to receive email updates on forest fire incidences in Nepal.


VIIRS data

The system incorporates data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) – a sensor on NASA’s Suomi satellite – to complement the MODIS data. As a result, the system provides enhanced spatial resolution over fires in relatively small areas.

Fire outlook

We have incorporated a fire outlook module into the system that can be used as a general index of fire danger throughout Nepal’s forested areas. We developed the two-day outlook by customising a Fire Weather Index (FWI) methodology and feeding data – temperature (°C), relative humidity (%), wind speed (km/h), and precipitation (mm) – from our High-Impact Weather Assessment Toolkit (HIWAT) – Nepal.

The module provides a general index of fire danger throughout Nepal’s forested areas and will enable forest fire managers to anticipate and prepare for future fire danger. It can substantially help managers make informed decisions about deploying resources, implementing fire prevention measures, and carrying out controlled burns to mitigate fire risk.


Damage assessment form

A damage assessment form allows registered DoFSC officials to capture information on reported fire incidences, estimated damage, and fatalities from forest fires into the web-based system.

In the years ahead, the system will continue to play a major role in improving the management of the Nepal’s valuable forest resources.