IMAGe Brown Bag Seminar - Wildfire: Synchronicity and Impact on Management Decision Making

03/29/2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
ML - Damon Room

Wildfire: Future Synchronicity and Impact on Management Decision Making

Alison Cullen and Linda Mearns

A growing research base supports the assessment of increases in frequency, extent, intensity and impact of very large wildfire (VLWF) events in the US, and increases in the length of the fire season, with a changing climate.   Meanwhile, little research considers potential increases in the synchronicity of very large wildfires; however such simultaneous occurrences could be expected to introduce scarcity and strain within systems for allocating fire suppression resources, equipment and personnel.  And in fact, in the 2015 fire season observable strain occurred in the western US.  We have been developing a research plan to consider decisions related to positioning and mobility of fire fighting equipment and personnel with the twin goals of estimating the probability of exceeding available capacity and of estimating the value of improved information about climate conditions and fire potential for these positioning and allocation decisions into the future.  In this work in progress seminar we will outline our plans for estimating the likelihood and impact of one or multiple VLWF events, using NA-CORDEX ( future climate simulations and subsequent simulation of fire potential under these future conditions, for the entire 21st century.  We will further describe the possible impact of new fire potential information for fire risk management and decision making.  We are developing an approach for identifying key thresholds for simultaneity and key triggers for exceeding available fire management resource capacity.  Research questions of interest include: at what breakpoint would the resource system be irretrievably ‘broken’ or overwhelmed due to too many large simultaneous fires? Under such conditions how would decisions be made to allow some of the VLWFs to not be suppressed even under conditions of likely damage and/or loss of life? What is the value and capability of improved climate and fire metric information incorporated in pre-season planning to minimize the chance of hitting such breakpoints?  How does this information value trade off against the value of purchasing additional equipment and personnel capacity in advance of the season?  And alternatively what decision protocols could adaptively manage fire risk during the fire season by movement of equipment and personnel on the fly?

(Bring your lunch)