Accurately predicting fire spread and behavior on the fire line, where reception for data connectivity is difficult, is highly important. This ability can prevent the loss of human life, improve the success of initial attack, and lead to better understanding of the potential fire behavior that minimizes many risks for firefighters.
To address this, Technosylva led a 2018 peer-reviewed study, published in the academic journal, Ecological Modelling, validating how Technosylva’s Wildfire Analyst™ Pocket Edition leverages well-known mathematical models in the scientific community to achieve this field operations goal. The platform allows firefighters to input data and receive real-time information on fire characteristics and estimated progression, all in a user-friendly 3D map interface.
”This is where we demonstrated that we can, as a technologist, bridge the gap and show what the role of technology can be to the wildfire community. What we did with this firefighter-focused application was to apply all the complex models in our lab and put it into a small application that is free for end-users in the field. This once again highlights Technosylva’s goal of being the bridge between scientists and technologists. The application is very popular for firefighters in the field, with over 11,000 downloads, and is being used officially as part of the NWCG S.130 wildfire training course to advance the risk understanding of future wildland firefighters.Joaquin Ramirez, Ph.DCo-Author - President & CTO
Insight from the Research
The analysis looked at the importance of predicting fire spread and behavior in wildfire management and highlighted a mobile app called Wildfire Analyst Pocket, or WFA Pocket, which is designed to provide real-time analysis and predictions for wildfires. Let’s break down the key points in a conversational summary.
Fire modeling systems, which estimate fire behavior, are crucial for fire management agencies at various levels, from global analysis to local fire assessment and prescribed burns. These fire simulators predict fire spread and behavior under various conditions and provide valuable data for experienced fire managers during firefighting, prevention, and planning efforts. Several established fire simulators have been developed over decades, such as Farsite, FlamMap, BehavePlus, and Wildfire Analyst (WFA).
WFA is a software designed to provide real-time analysis of wildfire behavior and spread, supporting decision-making during firefighting operations. It offers a wide range of data, including fire perimeters, flame length, rate of spread, and more, tied to weather conditions and input data.
Accurate predictions of fire behavior are crucial for preventing loss of life and minimizing damage during wildfire incidents. However, due to a lack of computer access on the fireline, fire agencies couldn’t use these fire simulators effectively.
In response, the Wildfire Analyst Pocket Edition (WFA Pocket) was developed as a mobile app for field use. It aims to estimate fire progression and behavior based on observed conditions, using well-known fire spread models from BehavePlus. This paper describes the development, design, models used, and the primary features of WFA Pocket.
WFA Pocket works on various devices and operating systems, including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux, and is available for free. It can function both online and offline, providing real-time calculations and results that are easy to understand.
Cite: Predicting fire spread and behaviour on the fireline. Wildfire analyst pocket: A mobile app for wildland fire prediction
The app has four main sections:
- Map Viewer: This section displays the estimated fire progression on a 3D map, allowing users to interactively modify parameters and observe numeric and graphical results in real-time. It considers various factors, including weather, fuel type, topography, and fuel moisture.
- Results: Here, fire modelers can view various fire behavior outputs, such as flame length, rate of spread, crown fire behavior, fire perimeter, and more.
- Charts: Users can interactively observe how fire behavior changes with different input data, which can be useful for analyzing sensitivity to different conditions.
- Parameters: This section allows users to configure the app, input information about the fire site and incident, and set conditions like wind speed, fuel type, and canopy characteristics.
The study evaluated the robustness of WFA Pocket by comparing its results to those from the well-known fire simulator BehavePlus. The comparison found no significant differences, confirming the reliability of WFA Pocket.
A case study involving the Tubbs Fire demonstrated how WFA Pocket accurately predicted fire behavior, especially in the head of the fire. It estimated a mean rate of spread similar to the actual fire spread. However, it’s essential to note that the accuracy of fire simulations depends on factors like model limitations, input data quality, and the level of spatial variability in the conditions.
Next Steps from the Research
WFA Pocket is a valuable tool for predicting fire behavior in real-time in the field. It provides accurate results and is suitable for a wide range of research and fire management applications. While it has limitations and assumptions, future improvements could enhance its accuracy and capabilities for analyzing fire progression across varying landscapes.
Learn more about how this science is put into practice.