Wildfire news, January 5, 2012

Table, fire, population, disease

Areas of Canada may be approaching a critical wildfire threshold

Scientists studying wildfires in Canada have developed a model that makes some predictions about fire occurrence in the decades to come. They concluded that some areas in the country are approaching a threshold after which changes in the number of fires and their average size will increase substantially. The three ecozones in Canada that are close to reaching this threshold are the Hudson Plains south of the Hudson Bay, the Boreale Plains in the Mid-West, and the Boreale Shield stretching from the mid-west to the east coast.

The researchers’ model is similar to those used for predicting the spread of epidemics and human populations. Here is a table and note from their paper that shows what some models of these processes have in common:

Table, fire, population, disease

Note. Burning area is part of the population of a fire that ultimately becomes extinct. The burned area is not part of the fire population; rather, it consists of dead ancestors.

Much of the paper is extremely technical. Here is an example that summarizes the algorithm

A fire starts if a spark hits a cell with fuel. All burning cells are kept in a queue. A random number is drawn to decide whether a burning cell extinguishes (with probability ) or whether a direct neighbor of one of the burning cells starts to burn (with probability ), provided that it has suitable fuel. We call the controlling parameter the reproductive ratio of fire, or fire spread success. We go through neighbors in the order of the burning cells in the queue. A fire stops once the last burning cell fails to ignite a neighbor. If run long enough (about 10,000 fires), the model reaches a quasi-stationary state in which the density of fuel-carrying cells, pt, fluctuates around a well-defined temporal mean.

The authors of the paper, Richard D. Zinck, Mercedes Pascual,and Volker Grimm, who made the results of their taxpayer-funded research freely available to the public, included this acknowledgement, which is another vote for OPEN ACCESS:

This work would not have been possible without the open access to data over the Internet…

IAWF offers wildfire scholarships

For the sixth year in a row the International Association of Wildland Fire is offering scholarships to two graduate students studying wildland fire. Here is an excerpt from their announcement:

In an effort to continue to promote the scholarly pursuits and graduate level training within the global wildland fire community, in 2012 the IAWF will again be awarding two graduate-level scholarships to IAWF members who are Master of Science (MSc) or Doctoral (PhD) students studying all wildland fire or wildland fire related topics. We encourage applications from students studying any aspect of wildland fire be it from the perspective of physical, ecological or social science to less traditional subject areas as well: we are looking through this scholarship to recognize and support any type of research relevant to the global wildland fire community.

The application period will open January 15, 2012 and will close on February 29, 2012. Award winners will be announced by the end of April 2012.

Previous winners of the IAWF scholarships are listed HERE.

Editorial about mandatory retirement age for firefighters

An editorial in the Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle makes the point, using a law enforcement ranger at Yellowstone National Park as an example, that mandatory retirement ages for firefighters, law enforcement officers, and pilots may no longer be appropriate. Here is an excerpt:

…Safety is the rationale for forcing a person out of a position. Mandatory retirement for pilots, law officers and firefighters were justified on the grounds that physical and mental faculties were diminished at a certain age. But diminished capacities should not be determined by an arbitrary number – a specific age. They can, and should, be determined by testing…

Thanks go out to Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.