Firefighter Safety

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Consequential lightning-caused wildfires and the “let burn” narrative

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Initial strategies were driven by resource objectives for only six of the 32 wildfires; firefighter hazard mitigation was the primary driver of all others. No fire exhibited every characteristic of the Tamarack Fire. Analog fires accounted for a small percent (3.4%) of large (> 121 ha) USFS lightning-caused ignitions. These fires were responsible for 61.6% of structures destroyed and 25.8% of total personnel commitments of large lightning-caused USFS fires.

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Safe Separation Distance Evaluator: Is my safety zone big enough?

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Scientists developed a new tool to help wildland fire personel know if a safety zone is large enough to protect firefighters.

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Using soil moisture information to better understand and predict wildfire danger: A review of recent developments and outstanding questions

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This review summarises a growing body of evidence indicating that greater use of in situ, remotely sensed, and modelled soil moisture information in fire danger rating systems could lead to better estimates of dynamic live and dead herbaceous fuel loads, more accurate live and dead fuel moisture predictions, earlier warning of wildfire danger, and better forecasts of wildfire occurrence and size. Potential uses of soil moisture information in existing wildfire danger rating systems include (1) as a supplement or replacement for drought indices, (2) for live and (3) dead fuel moisture modelling, (4) for estimating herbaceous fuel curing, and (5) for estimating fuel loads. We identify key remaining research questions and note the logistical challenge of convincing wildfire professionals of the importance of soil moisture compared with more familiar wildfire danger metrics. While obstacles remain, the path forward is clear. Soil moisture information can and should be used to improve fire danger rating systems and contribute to more effective fire management for the protection of communities and ecosystems worldwide.

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Assessing potential safety zone suitability using a new online mapping tool

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Safety zones (SZs) are critical tools that can be used by wildland firefighters to avoid injury or fatality when engaging a fire. Effective SZs provide safe separation distance (SSD) from surrounding flames, ensuring that a fire’s heat cannot cause burn injury to firefighters within the SZ. Evaluating SSD on the ground can be challenging, and underestimating SSD can be fatal. We introduce a new online tool for mapping SSD based on vegetation height, terrain slope, wind speed, and burning condition: the Safe Separation Distance Evaluator (SSDE). It allows users to draw a potential SZ polygon and estimate SSD and the extent to which that SZ polygon may be suitable, given the local landscape, weather, and fire conditions. We begin by describing the algorithm that underlies SSDE. Given the importance of vegetation height for assessing SSD, we then describe an analysis that compares LANDFIRE Existing Vegetation Height and a recent Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) satellite image-driven forest height dataset to vegetation heights derived from airborne lidar data in three areas of the Western US. This analysis revealed that both LANDFIRE and GEDI/Landsat tended to underestimate vegetation heights, which translates into an underestimation of SSD. To rectify this underestimation, we performed a bias-correction procedure that adjusted vegetation heights to more closely resemble those of the lidar data. SSDE is a tool that can provide valuable safety information to wildland fire personnel who are charged with the critical responsibility of protecting the public and landscapes from increasingly intense and frequent fires in a changing climate. However, as it is based on data that possess inherent uncertainty, it is essential that all SZ polygons evaluated using SSDE are validated on the ground prior to use.

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Snag hazard mapping to reduce risk to wildland fire responders with LANDFIRE

Webinar recording.


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Effectiveness of fitness training and psychosocial education intervention programs in wildland firefighting

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Pre- and post-season assessments of primary (e.g. psychosocial risk factors, physical fitness and psychological capital) and secondary (e.g. work engagement, job stress and incidence of injury) outcomes facilitated comprehensive evaluation. The psychosocial education intervention program was effective at buffering participant appraisals of 12 of 13 psychosocial risk factors, namely: organizational culture, civility, psychological demands, balance, psychological support, leadership expectations, growth and development, influence, workload management, engagement, protection and safety. Participants in the psychosocial education intervention also reported lower stress relating to organizational support compared with those who not receiving the intervention program. Wildland firefighters receiving either or both intervention programs reported a significantly lower incidence rate of injury (9.9%) compared with the organisation’s 5-year average (16.0%).

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Co-management during crisis: Insights from jurisdictionally complex wildfires

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In this paper, researchers seek to address this question based on interviews with leaders engaged in the management of jurisdictionally complex wildfire incidents. They propose a multi-level framework for conceiving co-management as strategic efforts of individual actors to cooperatively manage perceived interdependencies with others through one or more formal or informal institutional arrangements. They then demonstrate the value of the proposed framework in its ability to organize a series of questions for diagnosing co-management situations within the context of jurisdictionally complex wildfires.

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17th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit

Conference website.

As it is already set by tradition, the Conference in Coimbra, Portugal, aims to provide an up to date on the developments in forest fire science and technology and an opportunity to meet persons and institutions, to promote international cooperation in this research and management area.

Following its previous editions, the scope of this Conference will cover the main topics related to fire management in a research perspective. There will be six major themes for you to present your work, each of them with several sub-topics, that you can find here on the website. The themes are related to Fire at the Wildland Urban Interface, Fire Risk Management, Decision Support Systems and Tools, Fire Management, Fuel Management and Socio Economic Issues. These themes are not restricted and we are open to other subjects that are proposed, as well.

Two courses, the VI Short Course on Fire Safety and the IX Short Course on Forest Fire Behaviour, will be held before the Conference, as related but separate events.

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Preparedness guide for wildland firefighters and their families

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A Preparedness Guide for Wildland Firefighters and Their Families provides honest information, resources, and conversation starters to give you, the wildland firefighter, tools that will be helpful in preparing yourself and your support network for the realities of your career. This publication does not set any standards or mandates; rather, it is intended to provide you with helpful information to bridge the gap between wellness and managing the unexpected. This publication helps firefighters and support networks such as family members, significant others, and friends prepare for and respond to planned and unplanned situations in the world of wildland firefighting. Some sections of this guide are written for the firefighter, while other sections are intended to be shared directly with support networks

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NASA System-Wide Safety Wildland Firefighting Operations Virtual Workshop

Workshop recordings.

The aim of this workshop is to better understand how NASA and community expertise can be leveraged in the development of systems that monitor, assess, mitigate, and assure safety concerns of dynamic operations in challenging work environments. The primary goals are to:

  • Identify and prioritize top safety-oriented risks, gaps in capabilities, and emerging technologies to enhance wildland firefighting for both near-term and mid-term operational concepts
  • Engage the stakeholder community in defining emergent safety-oriented roles, responsibilities, and procedures for agents undergoing increasingly complex wildland firefighting operations in information-rich but uncertain environments

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