City police propose subscription to NASA-developed image suite for early fire detection at Brahmapuram

Though the plant had six functional CCTV cameras during the time of the March 2 fire outbreak, they proved inadequate in covering the dumping area spread across over 100 acres

April 03, 2023 08:06 pm | Updated 08:06 pm IST - KOCHI

The Kochi City police have proposed subscribing to the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIRS), a patented product developed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for detecting thermal and fire anomalies.

The proposal comes in the wake of the fire that kept raging at Kochi Corporation’s Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant for almost a fortnight last month. Though the plant had six functional CCTV cameras at the time of the fire outbreak, they proved inadequate in covering the entire dumping area spread across over 100 acres. Neither did they offer 360 degree angles nor were they thermal imaging cameras.

“The patented product of NASA helps to detect fire anomalies and identify fire-prone hotspots using satellite imagery. It facilitates accurate, continuous, and real-time monitoring of the area covered. It is subscription-driven and is being widely used by waste treatment plants across the world though we haven’t yet adopted it,” said K. Sethu Raman, District Police Chief (Kochi City).

The Kochi City police had approached NASA for satellite images of the plant as part of their probe into the Brahmapuram fire that broke out on March 2 and was doused only on March 13.

“Their response had been very good. But what they provided were low resolution images and that too for the time before the actual fire breakout. That’s why we have proposed subscribing to the paid imaging suite that offers high-resolution and continuous images,” said Mr. Sethu Raman, who had submitted an exhaustive preliminary report to the Chief Secretary on the Brahmapuram fire.

He said that the Fire and Rescue Services’s recommendation for intensified-police patrolling at the plant was of little use. His preliminary report had ruled out sabotage behind the fire and instead attributed the cause to sub-surface fire of old waste materials. Last week, the Forensic Science Laboratory had confirmed his finding that it was indeed sub-surface fire that was triggered by spontaneous combustion of solid wastes from the heat generated by landfill gases. These gases were produced by chemically and biochemically mediated degradation of wastes.

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