OroraTech & ARAUCO: Battling Devastating Fires in Chile

In February this year, Chile experienced devastating wildfires leading to at least 26 deaths and nearly 2000 injuries, burning across more than 400.000 ha or 4000 square kilometers, making it among the deadliest wildfires on record in the country. Unfortunately, also the largest commercial forestry company in the country ARAUCO was affected and they asked OroraTech help to fight the disaster. 


According to German Neumann, ARAUCO’s Head of Forest Fire Protection, while they were prepared for fires, this year’s wildfire behavior (number of fires starting daily) and weather conditions presented significant challenges to their control efforts. However, the company’s top priority was to collaborate closely with their partners to minimize any harm to people, forests, and property. They aimed to ensure that everyone involved was committed to tackling the issue with not just 100%, but 200% effort, to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Satellite image via OroraTech’s Wildfire Solution platform displays Valparaiso-Maule area, central Chile, on 04.02. Left: Fire clusters with smoke plumes. Right: Burnt areas and affected land coverage.

ARAUCO Challenges

During large-scale disasters, numerous obstacles arise, and in the case of the February fires, the primary challenges for ARAUCO team were:

  • Comprehensive global insights from a global/ view from above perspective to gain a thorough understanding of the situation and make swift, informed decisions on a daily basis.
  • Accurate daily damage assessment to monitor and evaluate the impact on affected areas
  • Fire behavior during the nighttime 
  • Fast response and support – the ability to engage the OroraTech team on a 24/7 basis.

“I have been working with ARAUCO since the 2019/20 wildfire season and have not seen such damage – ARAUCO team were battling wildfires non-stop day and night with all the means possible to protect not only their plantations but also the Chilean forest heritage,” says Camilo Pabon, OroraTech’s Customer success manager.

OroraTech Solutions

OroraTech has implemented a range of innovative solutions to enable ARAUCO to effectively address their complex challenges. These solutions included:

Updating Wildfire Solution platform with near real-time data

OroraTech immediately took action by mobilizing its full range of internal resources to solve the customer’s problem. From data scientists to satellite development experts, every team member worked tirelessly to process, analyze, and prepare thermal infrared images from OroraTech’s first satellite ready to be accessed via its Wildfire Solution platform in a matter of just a few hours.

Obtaining thermal infrared images daily for enhanced nighttime monitoring

Usually, satellite images are captured when the satellite passes over the targeted region which at times is a couple of times per week. However, in this urgent case, the OroraTech team was able to obtain nearly 30 unique thermal infrared visuals by capturing one image per day at the outset of the fire outbreak. These frequent and detailed images proved invaluable in assessing the situation, particularly during the nighttime when visibility is typically limited and aeroplanes are not used frequently.

MWIR Image taken by OroraTech’s satellite FOREST-1 on 2023-02-09 00:31 Chilean local time. In yellow the active fire fronts at that specific point in time.
LWIR Image taken by OroraTech’s satellite FOREST-1 on 2023-02-09 11:08 Chilean local time. In yellow the active fire fronts at that specific point in time compared to the surface temperature in purple tones. We can clearly see severe wildfires close to Los Ángeles

Accessing Burnt Area Mapping feature for quick damage analysis

Realizing that there is a need for additional satellite data, OroraTech reached out to the German Aerospace Center, the DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) with a task to provide additional data over Chile further underscoring the importance of partnerships in the fight against forest fires. With the help of DLR, the ARAUCO team was able to access fast burnt area mapping from the ZKI Fire Monitoring System. This allowed OroraTech and ARAUCO teams to track and evaluate the damage of affected areas in a quick manner.    

The image shows multiple red zones, indicating the burnt areas over Chile. OroraTech’s new Burnt Area Mapping feature shows all the burnt scar detections spotted over the country as of February 28, 2023, through the burnt area product from Sentinel-3 satellite.

Mobilizing the full range of OroraTech's internal resources

Finally, and certainly, not of lesser importance, the OroraTech team has been providing the latest data sets, images, and updates throughout various times of the day, including the early hours of the morning. This has played a critical role in facilitating prompt actions and empowering ARAUCO to develop a more effective fire suppression strategy, particularly during nighttime operations.

Fredy Rojas, responsible for the fire central at ARAUCO, expressed that OroraTech's data and team support enabled their team to concentrate on the crucial task of combating the fires, especially at night when visibility and aircraft resources are scarce for having an overall overview of the situation.

The OroraTech team supporting ARAUCO during the fire season in Chile in February 2023

The collaboration with ARAUCO marks an important milestone for OroraTech as it continues to expand its global footprint. The company is proud to be at the forefront of this important work and remains committed to providing innovative solutions to help protect our planet’s natural resources and combat wildfires as well as the consequences of climate change.

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