SJSU lab studies 'fire weather'

Fires can create their own unpredictable weather and one San Jose State University lab is devoted to studying it.

Thanks to a tricked out truck, they can analyze information right from the fire line.

Their research is cutting edge, their equipment is state of the art - and on top that, they're mobile.

Craig Clements, Director of the Fire Weather Research Lab says, "This is the only fire weather research truck in the U.S."

The lab tracks fuel, smoke, winds, and turbulence right from the scene.

Clements says, "Fire weather seems to be pretty benign, until it goes crazy."

For example, the Carr fire near Redding kicked up a fire tornado.

The swirling vortex of flames was so powerful that it wrapped a gas pipe around this tree.

Clements says, "It's probably the strongest, largest event that we've seen in a wildfire to date."

In addition to studying the fires themselves, the San Jose State team can offer real time information to firefighters.

They launch weather balloons and analyze smoke which can help determine whether fire suppression aircraft can fly.

Graduate student Matthew Brewer, who is also a former volunteer firefighter says, "So if we can help the firefighters with the science that we get, the data that we acquire from launching weather balloons, that something that really makes me feel good."

Jackson Yip, also on the Fire Weather Research team says, "Being able to get it under control and suppressed as fast as possible is really important to save lives. And our data can help with that."

The hope is that with more data, the Fire Weather Research Lab can do more good.
And so they're expanding by adding a second truck. 

This one will be equipped with radar and should be ready by November.

Clements says, "This armada is growing."