ENHANCING UNDERSTANDING OF WILDFIRE BEHAVIOR AND SUPPRESSION WITHIN THE UK FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Late April - May (2011) saw a widely reported UK 'wildfire crisis', including in very highly populated areas (e.g. Berkshire). Wildfires in moorlands, heathlands, woodlands and forests affected England, Scotland, Wales and NI, leading to large-scale landscape impacts, road and school closures, and significant strain on the emergency services. In fact whilst not commonly publicised, the UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) responds to > 60,000 wildfires annually across the UK, yet only the Northumberland FRS (NFRS) train specifically in wildfire behaviour/suppression. NFRS have developed responsibility for extending this training to other UK Fire and Rescue Services so that they do not rely solely on knowledge of structural fire behaviour and suppression, which is a poor basis for understanding and suppressing vegetation fires spreading across landscapes. KCL has expertise in remote sensing, in situ fire measurement, and use of simulation models. This KE activity will build on existing links between KCL and NFRS to enhance the training programme and materials offered by NFRS to other UK FRS', in order that the wider Service can better understand wildfire behaviour, enabling them respond more efficiently and effectively, better identify suppression options and where and when to apply them safely during wildfire outbreaks. Specific outputs will be (i) a simulator for use in enhancing understanding of wildfire behaviour amongst FRS personnel, (ii) a micro-UAV-based imaging system and data processing tools for recoding fire behaviour, (iii) an archive of simulated and real fire behaviours representing a wide range of UK vegetation fire conditions, (iv) a 'UK Wildfire Manual' and the Wildfire Prediction System (WPS), updated with knowledge gained during this project, and (v) a complete training package based on the above for use at future courses run by NFRS for the UK Fire Service. Currently 800 personnel have been trained by NFRS, and it is anticipated that NFRS will be involved in the training of over 600 personnel from up to 10 fire services over the next 3 years (this figure is a conservative estimate).

Planned Impact

The sustained benefit ultimately resulting from this project is a better trained UK fire fighting community, armed with the knowledge to more effectively deal with the types of wildfire that regularly occur in UK landscapes, and able to use their resources to do this more efficiently and with less risk to fire fighters.

RCUK define research impact as: [Impact 1] fostering global economic performance, and specifically UK economic competitiveness; [Impact 2] increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy; [Impact 3] enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.

The primary KE impact will come via [Impact 2], in terms of significant enhancements to the efficacy of the UK Fire and Rescue Service [UK FRS] (a National Public Service) through improvements in their ability to understand and interpret UK wildfire behaviour, and via their consequential use of more appropriate and effective fire suppression tactics which are better tailored to the actual wildfire situations encountered. At present, outside of project partner the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service [NFRS], there is relatively limited appreciation of these aspects at the national level. The project also directly addresses [Impact 1] - since one of the primary aims of the training delivered to the wider UK FRS by project partners NFRS is that ultimately fewer resources will be deployed inappropriately to wildfire situations (thus improving the Service's economic efficiency), and [Impact 3] - since there will be a clear reduction in risk to fire fighters through better and more appropriate wildfire understanding and suppression tactics. The sustainability of these impacts will be assured through the fact that one key output of the project is improved training materials [Objective 3], which will be developed by KCL and project partners NFRS and which will then be used by NFRS to train the wider UKFRS; both during the projects lifetime and also long after this project has completed. This guarantees that the benefits will be spread throughout the UKFRS at the national level. It is expected that NFRS will train 600 personnel from up to 10 fire services over the next 3 years (see Letter of Support from Project Partner NFRS), and this is expected to continue into the future. Furthermore, in addition to training materials, the WPS system will be held by trained UKFRS personnel in the form of a manual, within which certain project outputs will be incorporated - for example sensitivity charts that provide a rapid and easy to interpret method for assessing the sensitivity of fire intensity/flame length to the driving forces of fuel load, slope and meteorology in UK fuel types. Therefore, the materials from the training will be directly incorporated into UK FRS activities when deployed in future wildfires. In the near future, the current training courses will be incorporated into a BTEC qualification which will be delivered in three units, set at level 3 and level 4. The wildfire manual currently being produced will be used by all UK Fire and Rescue Services, and will determine operational service direction in relation to wildfires in the future. This is expected to result in further increased demand for wildfire training from other FRSs in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Training materials for the UK Fire and Rescue Service in relation to UK landscape fires.
Exploitation Route The training programme of the UK Fire and Rescue Service are using the results from this award.
Sectors Education,Environment

 
Description - contributed to training programme of northumberland fire and rescue service - contributed to wildfire training manual for UK fire fighters
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Decision to undertake fuel reduction management using prescribed burning in Silent Valley, Mourne Mountains
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact This change in policy will result in more efficient and more effective land management for wildfires, reducing the likelihood of large wildfires and making any future wildfire easier to fight.
URL http://www.caringformourne.com/
 
Description Projects on prevention and preparedness in civil protection and marine pollution from Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection - European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO)
Amount € 489,000 (EUR)
Organisation ECHO 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2015
 
Description Crowthorne-Swinley Forest Fire Investigation (WTA) 
Organisation Forest Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We were involved with using simulation modelling to investigate the Crowthorne-Swinley Forest Fire of Spring 2011. We used wildfire spread simulation software to model the fire using the meteorology on the day of the fire, but also under different meteorological scenarios. This formed part of a larger 'Wildfire Threat Analysis' project led by the University of Manchester.
Collaborator Contribution The Forestry Commission and Forest Research hosted a series of workshops for the project, allowing for project planning, implementation and dissemination.
Impact Improved understanding of the 2011 event, and a much better understanding of risks, hazards, and costs for future potential events in the region.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Crowthorne-Swinley Forest Fire Investigation (WTA) 
Organisation Forestry Commission
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We were involved with using simulation modelling to investigate the Crowthorne-Swinley Forest Fire of Spring 2011. We used wildfire spread simulation software to model the fire using the meteorology on the day of the fire, but also under different meteorological scenarios. This formed part of a larger 'Wildfire Threat Analysis' project led by the University of Manchester.
Collaborator Contribution The Forestry Commission and Forest Research hosted a series of workshops for the project, allowing for project planning, implementation and dissemination.
Impact Improved understanding of the 2011 event, and a much better understanding of risks, hazards, and costs for future potential events in the region.
Start Year 2014
 
Description FIREfficient 
Organisation European Forest Institute
Country Finland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We contributed to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding
Collaborator Contribution This partnership led to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding.
Impact The FIREfficient project (Operational tools for improving efficiency in wildfire risk reduction in EU landscapes) was funded (see separate entry for grant funding).
Start Year 2013
 
Description FIREfficient 
Organisation Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC)
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contributed to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding
Collaborator Contribution This partnership led to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding.
Impact The FIREfficient project (Operational tools for improving efficiency in wildfire risk reduction in EU landscapes) was funded (see separate entry for grant funding).
Start Year 2013
 
Description FIREfficient 
Organisation Government of Catalonia
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We contributed to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding
Collaborator Contribution This partnership led to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding.
Impact The FIREfficient project (Operational tools for improving efficiency in wildfire risk reduction in EU landscapes) was funded (see separate entry for grant funding).
Start Year 2013
 
Description FIREfficient 
Organisation Pau Costa Foundation
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We contributed to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding
Collaborator Contribution This partnership led to a successful bid to ECHO for civil contingency funding.
Impact The FIREfficient project (Operational tools for improving efficiency in wildfire risk reduction in EU landscapes) was funded (see separate entry for grant funding).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Mourne Mountains Wildfire Management Plan 
Organisation Mourne Heritage Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We contributed to a Wildfire Management Plan for the Mourne Mountains in association with the Mourne Heritage Trust. This work involved wildfire spread modelling and a number of workshops/meetings with local stakeholders to discuss land-use values and different fuel management strategies.
Collaborator Contribution The Mourne Heritage Trust organised and paid for the workshops and also provided accommodation for the trips. Some of the travel was also funded by the Mourne Heritage Trust (one set of flights and regional travel).
Impact Outputs included a poster and presentation at the Met Office Wildfire Conference in 2014, a MSc dissertation project, workshops in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A major and direct outcome of this work was the decision to proceed with fuel management in the Mourne Mountains using prescribed burning. This was a major change in policy in the region, and the first time prescribed fire has been used in this region in modern times.
Start Year 2014
 
Description National Contingency Planning Exercise 
Organisation Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Wildfire spread modelling was used to simulate a large-scale wildfire in the Sherbrook Valley. The outputs from the model (fire perimeters at different times following the ignition) were provided to Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service along with all of the input data (fuel maps, meteorological data) that were analysed and assembled for the exercise.
Collaborator Contribution Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service ran a wildfire contingency planning exercise at their National Contingency Planning Centre using the simulation data that we provided. The exercise involved personnel from the Police and Ambulance emergency services, as well as Air Ambulance operators. The wildfire spread simulation data were used in conjunction with smoke and flame simulation software to create simulated scenes for helicopter crews.
Impact The main output was the exercise itself, involving 40+ members of the emergency services and local government. The major outcome being an improved preparedness and contingency planning for large-scale wildfires.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Presentation at the Chief Fire Officers Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This activity includes two presentations at the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA). Attendance and presentation at the first meeting served the purpose of introducing the technology to a wider audience of Chief Fire Officers beyond the Fire and Rescue Service who were the main partners on the Knowledge Exchange grant (Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service). Insights from this presentation and subsequent discussion were used to help design the wildfire fighting training materials. Attendance and presentation at the second meeting served the purpose of demonstrating the new training materials and seeking feedback. These meetings were crucial in building partnerships with Fire and Rescue Services nationally and paved the way for training materials development for a number of Services beyond Northumberland, including Berkshire, Derbyshire, Durham & Darlington, Herfordshire & Worcestershire, Lancashire, Northern Ireland, and Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015