Case Study

Sawday Fire, 25 October 2019

You would have been forgiven for not noticing the unremarkable trailer that was parked at Sawday Truck Trail and Littlepage Road, in San Diego, just south of state Route 78 on October 25 2019.

At 9.19am that morning it burst into flames and, fanned by strong winds, went on to destroy 97 acres in the surrounding area.

The moment of impact

The official start of the fire is 9:19am, as confirmed from the image sequence in the Woodson directory.

Eyes in the sky fire on the ground

The computer detected the fire in the GOES 17 satellite feed in the 16:26:27 frame. At this stage, the human eye is not capable of recognising the fire in the image against the background. However, Fireball’s methods and algorithms identified the fire with a high probability.

The ground-based system detected the fire three minutes later on the Woodson East Camera at 09:22:20. The Mesa Grande South camera shows smoke at 09:21:38, but the smoke is staying very close to the ground (due to the wind).

The Volcan Mountain West Camera 09:28:47 has a small amount of smoke just poking over the hill.

The system detected the smoke at 09:30:47.


Early notification meant early response

Fireball’s system allowed for fast reporting of this fast moving fire that was being fanned by strong winds. Mandatory evacuations were issued to people in the immediate area of Sawday Truck Trail and Littlepage Road, but others further out only received warnings to leave. The fire was contained quickly because firefighters were able to knock down the forward spread of the fire due to regular data updates that provided intelligence with regard to the direction, speed and spread of the fire.

Early detection saves lives

The outcomes as noted above are only achieved through the use of the combination of satellite and ground-based sensor data analysed by a powerful machine learning software and is the fastest and most reliable way of detecting fires.

Dates fire burned

25 October

Lives lost


Area burned

97 acres

Structures destroyed