SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah)- Before firefighters jump in to battle wildfires they identify area where they can retreat and find the best routes to get from the fire to safety zone. Currently these decisions are made on the ground, but a new University of Utah led study is taking a look at escape routes from above.

Researches used Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to analyze the terrain and volunteers to assess how landscape conditions affect firefighter’s way to travel. The volunteers timed themselves walking along 22 paths researchers designed to capture various landscapes. 

“When combined with the LiDAR-derived landscape conditions, firefighters can apply existing route-finding algorithms to the data to identify the path of least resistance,” researchers said.

Currently the technology take a long time to process and coverage can be limited but researches say if areas with high wildfire risk prepare the data ahead of time, firefighters could run the route-finding software to identify escape routes in real time.

For a closer look at the study and more about the LiDAR technology, click here.