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Presentation and poster abstracts - UK Wildfire Conference

A flavour of the oral presentations and posters.


Keynote - Enhancing Wildfire Resilience: key learnings from social wildfire research in New Zealand

LANGER, E.R. (Lisa)

Scion Research

UK Wildfires17 Key note presentation Langer (pdf, 6Mb) (opens in a new window)

New Zealand experiences frequent, typically smaller wildfires, with about 4100 wildfires burning 4170 ha per year (10-year average 2005-06 to 2014-15; National Rural Fire Authority (NRFA) data 2015). Human activity is responsible for most of these wildfires. The use of rural fire for land management (such as burning agricultural crop residues, woody vegetation, tussock grasslands and piles of vegetative material), recreation and cultural purposes (e.g. cooking food by traditional methods) is reasonably high in New Zealand. A significant number of wildfires are caused from escaped campfires, bonfires and rubbish fires (23%), land clearing burns (18%), arson (9%), fires involving vehicles (7%) and pyrotechnics or fireworks (3%) (NRFA data 2015-16).

The Rural Fire Research Group at Scion, a government-owned research institute focused on forestry in New Zealand, has had a strong social rural fire research strand since 2003. Seven case studies have been made of fire-affected communities in rural, rural-urban interface and other wildfire prone areas to provide fire agencies with improved knowledge to engage with members of the public to enhance community resilience. The small team of scientists have concentrated much of their research effort on communication of fire danger warnings, risk awareness and wildfire prevention and preparedness messages. In addition, research has been extended to studying the traditional use of fire by Indigenous Māori communities. This keynote presentation will highlight lessons learned from these New Zealand studies.

Building wildfire resilience into new major developments planning


Forestry and Wildfire Advisor Services

UK Wildfires17 Gazzard (pdf, 4Mb) (opens in a new window)

The Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NFFP) in England provides opportunities for wildfire mitigation and adaptation in new development planning. In the United Kingdom such planning is unique and unprecedented, involving a successful partnership between Local Planning Authorities, landowners, development and ecological consultants, Fire and Rescue Services and a wildfire advisor.

With the impacts of climate change, especially on the Rural Urban Interface (RUI), set to increase wildfire risk and hazards, such forward planning is now critical. Rather than being an intrusive 'bolt on' to development plans, wildfire mitigation and adaptation looks to integrate into themes, such as green infrastructure and ecology to enhance existing site features. 

The presentation will highlight the policy's and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation using two case studies of major developments in Berkshire and Surrey, adjacent to two of the most prominent wildfire incidents in the South East. The presentation highlights the innovative use of the Forestry Commission's Practice Guide 'Building Wildfire Resilience in Forestry Management Planning' adapted to the challenges of development and green infrastructure.  

Many of the concepts used build on experience from the United States National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Wise and Fire Adapted Communities programmes as well as recent United Kingdom guidance.

The Urban Heaths Partnership - Dorset Wildfire Resilience


Urban Heaths Partnership, UK

UK Wildfires17 Attwell (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window)

The Urban Heaths Partnership (UHP) has been working in Dorset since 2001 and is a 14-organisation partnership made up of Local Authorities, Nature Conservation Organisations and the Emergency Services. The Partnership works to mitigate the effects of urban development on heathland sites across the project area. A key area of work has been reducing arson and wildfires on these internationally important sites. The Partnership has embraced a number of fire reduction techniques and continues to adopt new approaches where possible, the latest is to develop a Firewise Communities Project based on the International Initiative.

Wildfire evacuations in Canada (presentation and poster)


Canadian Forest Service, Edmonton AB Canada

UK Wildfires17 Christianson (pdf, 3Mb) (opens in a new window)

To protect human life and avoid injuries, thousands of Canadians are evacuated from their homes every year in order to protect the health and safety of residents during wildfires because of fire proximity, smoke, loss of access and/or power outages. Despite comprising only 4% of the Canadian population, almost 1/3 of wildfire evacuations between 1980 and 2007 involved Indigenous people. Evacuations have social, psychological, health and economic impacts on evacuees, their families and communities. This presentation will discuss wildfire evacuations in Canada between 1980 and 2017, and further explore major wildfire evacuation events in Kelowna BC, Slave Lake AB, and Fort McMurray AB, including lessons learned.

'Wildfire devastates Surrey.' Can we avoid this future headline?

SCOTT, Andrew C

Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, TW20 0EX, U.K.

​Surrey has more trees than any other county in England. While today wildfire is not considered by most people as a major problem, our changing climate may alter the way we think about, and deal with, the threat of wildfire. Not only have the planting of non-native trees and grasses created a flammable landscape, but also in addition to the destruction of property and infrastructure, we face a threat to our water supplies from post-fire erosion and other effects. In this paper the reality of this scenario based on fire research both on modern and ancient fire systems and on forward modeling will be considered.

Resilience through a year-round approach to wildfires

HOPE, Craig

South Wales Fire & Rescue

UK Wildfires17 Hope (pdf, 9Mb) (opens in a new window)

This presentation will show the long journey that SWFRS have travelled to become  much more resilient when dealing with wildfires. 

The introduction of a wildfire toolbox has given crews the skills to look at our wildfire issues throughout the year rather than just responding to incidents. SWFRS have developed training courses and trained 124 personnel in prescribed and tactical fire use, the result of which there are 4 burn teams available on an immediate turnout. These teams have carried out prescribed burning before the wildfire season and tactical burning operations during the fire season.

The next step will be to map and maintain these fire breaks so they are available to incident commands at incidents to aid with planning and to look into new methods of creating fire breaks using fire.

Finally it will show how using these techniques, ATV's and aerial firefighting resources attendances by fire engines can be greatly reduced so fire engines can remain within their communities as was proved by the results of the 2017 fire season.

The role of public health in reducing the risk from wildfires in Wales

KIBBLE, Andrew1,2*, CALLOW, Paul1, THOMAS, Daniel2, BRUNT, Huw2

1 Public Health England CRCE Wales. 2 Public Health Wales  *Presenting author ( 

UK Wildfires17 Kibble (pdf, 3Mb) (opens in a new window)

Wildfire smoke is toxic and can contain large amounts of particles and harmful gases.  In response to the Welsh Government grass fires summit in 2015 'Operation Dawns Glaw' was established with the objective to reduce the number of deliberate wildfires.  This presentation will describe the role that public health has played in this project.

Data on the location, size and duration of wildfires were analysed to assess the potential health impact. Frequency of grass fires was highest in the most deprived areas with 57% of all fires occurring in the most socially and economically deprived communities.

Potential exposure to wildfire smoke was estimated using person years at risk based on proximity to the largest and longest burning wildfires. Over a four year period it was estimated that there was a total of 11,512 person-years of exposure to smoke from the largest fires, with 48% of all exposure reported in the area covered by the Cwm Taf Health Board. Over 10,000 people lived within 1 mile of the largest wildfires. A review of health data on respiratory conditions reported to GPs in wildfire affected areas is underway and the initial results will be presented.

As an outcome of this work, Public Health Wales developed a series of reactive public health messages on the risks and impacts of grass fires and a toolkit for public health professionals. These health messages were also incorporated into various education and media campaigns delivered by Operation Dawns Glaw.

Wildfire across the Pond: CIFFC and coordinating conflagration control in Canada


Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University

UK Wildfires17 Kennedy (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window)

As opposed to its southern neighbors who largely address wildfire through national organizations, Canadian land ownership regimes mean that provincial and territorial agencies bear the responsibility for wildfire management and mitigation. In turn, this primacy of provincial actors has fostered the need for national-level organization to coordinate standards, resource sharing, and, to a degree, the generation and distribution of practical knowledge. The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) serves as the primary organization for fostering this collaboration, and plays an incredibly influential role in Canadian wildfire management - despite being made up of fewer than ten employees.

In this paper, I present initial qualitative results from the first half of my dissertation fieldwork with CIFFC and provincial wildfire management agencies in Canada. I present some of the key institutional features and practices that make CIFFC an effective organization for brokering collaboration in a Commonwealth setting, and the resulting attributes of trans-provincial coordination in Canada. I also consider lessons learned from the CIFFC and inter-provincial experience, and present these with an eye towards the further development of comparable organizations in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.  

A multi-scale approach to the development of robust, physics-based models for wildfire planning and risk assessment

MUELLER, Eric1*; THOMAS, Jan1; HADDEN, Rory1; MELL, William2; SIMEONI, Albert3

1 University of Edinburgh, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, Edinburgh, UK; 2 USDA Forest Service, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, Seattle, WA, USA; 3 Jensen Hughes, Inc., Framingham, MA, USA

*Presenting author

UK Wildfires17 Mueller (pdf, 3Mb) (opens in a new window)

Wildfires are complex, multi-scale events which demand that those in charge of fire operations, land management, or community planning have robust tools available to anticipate and mitigate potential risks. Past strategies have relied heavily upon simplified models to predict quantities such as fire spread rate and intensity. However, such tools are often generated from a limited set of measurements over a relatively narrow range of test conditions and fuel types. As a result these models have a high geographic dependency and lack the fundamental physics necessary to make robust predictions. Therefore, we set out to undertake a fundamental investigation of the phenomena driving fire behaviour, in order to better understand the capabilities and limitations of simplified models. By identifying dominant physical mechanisms in specific regimes, an improved suite of simplified models can be provided.

The current investigation relies on a combination of experimental measurement and detailed physics-based numerical modeling in order to strengthen our fundamental understanding of fire behaviour. Further, a multi-scale approach is adopted, ranging from the very small lab scale to the very large field scale, in which both techniques are applied. The presented work will highlight how field-scale experimental fires have been used to test a detailed physics-based fire behavior model, which has led to a better understanding of specific knowledge gaps and the development of laboratory scale experiments to address these knowledge gaps. Results from both scales will be presented, identifying a pathway to develop specific tools to minimize the risk and impacts arising from wildfires.

Fire management in Ireland - from evidence to action

NUGENT, Ciaran1*, BARRETT, Frank1, CURRAN, Eugene1, MCCOY, Calvin2

1 Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, IRELAND; 2 Mallon Technology Ltd., Northern Ireland 

*Presenting author

UK Wildfires17 Nugent (pdf, 3Mb) (opens in a new window)

Development of wildfire management responses and resilience policy measures in Ireland have until recently been greatly hampered by an absence of historical spatial and temporal data concerning fire activity. This paper will demonstrate how satellite derived spatial fire data has been used to guide development and delivery of specific fire management measures and policy adaptations to suit Irish Conditions. Measures outlined include detection, location and delineation of burned areas using remote sensing techniques, development of cooperative fire management groups with landowners and local agencies in fire prone areas, development and implementation of prescribed fire and fuels management measures and enabling legislation, enforcement of agricultural regulations regarding the use of fire and improved attitudes and approaches to fire resilience planning in the forestry, conservation and emergency management sectors.

Wildfire spread modelling for assessing wildfire hazard and risk under different scenarios of forestry management

SMITH, Thomas E. .1*; BOROS, Matyas, J.1; DE JONG, Mark1; McMORROW, Julia2; AYLEN, Jonathan3; KAŹMIERCZAK, Aleksandra4; GAZZARD, Rob5; DEAKIN, John6; PEET, George7; MORISON, James8

1 Department of Geography, King's College London, London, UK; 2 School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, UK; 3 Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK; 4. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark; 5 Forestry Commission England, Forest Services, Farnham, UK; 6 Crown Estate, Windsor, UK; 7 Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Longmoor, UK; 8 Forest Research, Farnham, UK

*Presenting author

UK Wildfires17 Smith (pdf, 6Mb) (opens in a new window)

We have previously demonstrated the use of the Canadian Forest Service's Prometheus wildfire spread model for simulating the 2011 Swinley-Crowthorne forest fire. Here we use Burn-P3 software and a customised Geographical Information System to simulate thousands of fires across two case study landscapes (the area encompassing Swinley-Crowthorne forest, and the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland). By simulating thousands of fires, it is possible to generate a 'burn probability' map for each landscape. The location of the ignition for each fire is determined by a carefully constructed 'risk of ignition' map, and fire spread is driven by meteorological conditions drawn from historical fire weather days in each landscape. Fuel is mapped from high resolution aerial photography, and topography is determined from a 5m Digital Terrain Model. We investigate the change in landscape burn probability under different forestry management scenarios by altering the fuel layer to include strategic deciduous (less flammable) plantations across the landscapes. We then investigate how the change in burn probability is translated into 'avoided losses' by using a stakeholder-determined 'values-at-risk' map.

EnviroSAR: enhancing wildfire resilience in moorlands and heathlands using radar images (presentation and poster)

TANTANASI, Ioanna1,2; MILLIN-CHALABI Gail1,2; McMORROW, Julia1; and JOHNSTON, Adam1

1 The University of Manchester, 2 EnviroSAR Ltd.

UK Wildfires17 McMorrow (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window)

Wildfires can have very significant environmental and economic impacts including discolouration of drinking water supplies, the release of CO2 contributing to global warming and resulting in damage to the unique ecosystems of peat moorlands and heathlands.  Resources for regular monitoring of burnt area and fire impacts are limited.  Cloud cover limits the use of traditional satellite remote sensing, whereas imaging radar can detect burn scars through cloud.  This has created an opportunity in the market for the Copernicus 2016 award-winning service, EnviroSAR Ltd which received funding by the European Commission and Satellite Applications Catapult.  EnviroSAR is a targeted solution for peat moorland and heathland wildfires using innovative satellite technology to deliver burned-area products from radar images.  It adds value to existing field data by combining it with Copernicus Earth Observation data.  Our team has extensive research expertise in stakeholder engagement for moorland management (Tantanasi, 2015) and landscape Earth Observation techniques for burn scar monitoring (Millin-Chalabi, 2016). 

The presentation will show how EnviroSAR products will benefit users.  EnviroSAR will reduce water company costs by bespoke mapping of areas of peat erosion.  It will save conservation groups time and money by generating burnt area maps remotely from radar and optical data rather than just ground surveys.  Radar images can also provide information on the rate at which burn scars regenerate naturally or following ecological restoration.  Time series of EnviroSAR products will therefore improve resilience by highlighting high-risk areas for wildfire prevention and post-fire restoration and by helping to monitor its success.  

We are currently consulting potential partners to understand their needs and jointly developing bespoke services and maps.  Moors for the Future Partnership (MFFP) is providing ground-based wildfire perimeter datasets for product validation. Our technical partner, Sterling Geo, is supporting development of the technical platform which will deliver our services and products.  We are keen to obtain feedback from other potential partners.

Wildland fuel flammability

HADDEN Rory1*; THOMAS, Jan Christian1; SIMEONI Albert2

1 Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; 2 Jensen Hughes, Inc., Framingham, MA, USA
*Presenting author

Understanding ignition and burning behaviour of vegetation is essential to understand the risks associated with wildfires. The factors impacting wildfire behaviour are generally categorized into three groups: (1) fuel (type, moisture content, loading, structure, continuity); (2) environmental (wind, temperature, relative humidity, precipitation); and (3) topography (slope, aspect). It is extremely difficult to assess these in the field so a smaller scale approach is required to understand the risks of wildfire in a given fuel type. By careful consideration of the fuel, the thermal environment and the flow structure, the complexity can be simplified and detailed understanding of fundamental fire behaviours can be gained. This work uses the FM Global Fire Propagation Apparatus (FPA), which is commonly used to provide standardised assessment of material flammability, to explore the effects of changing the heat and mass transfer conditions on the ignition and burning of porous fuel beds of pine needles. This work will demonstrate how the flammability parameters can be established using these techniques, and how this can lead to a rigorous, standardised methodology to test wildland fuel flammability. It is shown that energy release rates, time to ignition, duration of flaming and gaseous emissions vary when changing factors such as fuel load, heating rate, forced convection, and FMC. Due to the many factors affecting the burning behaviour, it is attempted to define the flammability as a multi-dimensional parameter. Finally, with the highly controlled experimental setup, it is possible to assess the fuel emissions and linking it to the observed combustion behaviour. 

Resident-led wildfire risk reduction: examples from the Firewise USA™ program

DEATON, Lucian


UK Wildfires17 Deaton (pdf, 2Mb) (opens in a new window)

"There should be no one in the world at risk to wildfire who doesn't know what they can do to be safer."  This focus has driven the Firewise USA® Recognition Program since 2002 and in several countries that have adopted - and importantly - adapted Firewise to engage their residents in valuable risk-reduction work through sustainable local action.  This presentation will explore lessons learned from program implementation across 42 US states, and how use of the model by international partners have  met the diverse needs of residents along a gradient of land ownership, economic ability, community cohesion, landscape challenges, and risk understanding.  

Reducing the structural fire risk from wildfire embers is best achieved when the residents own the solution.  Firewise achieves this by not only educating residents on their own risk, but also helping them see their neighbors as partners in risk-reduction.  The program fosters the important recognition of these efforts to advance sustainability of local action.  

In 2017, over 1400 recognized Firewise communities in the U.S. engaged in education and mitigation work.    The Firewise USA Program is managed by the US-Based National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and provides homeowners with simple and easy steps to help reduce a home's wildfire risk. 

Developing a fire danger rating system for the United Kingdom - how close are we to creating a working system?

BRUCE, Michael

Firebreak Services Ltd

UK Wildfires17 Bruce (pdf, 728kb) (opens in a new window)

Merrill and Alexander (1987) define a fire danger rating system (FDRS) as an assessment of both fixed and variable factors of the fire environment which determine the ease of ignition, rate of spread, difficulty of control and fire impact. FDRS are recognized internationally as a key fire-intelligence tool to support decision making across a range of fire management tasks.

Attempts at developing a fire danger rating system for the UK have occurred intermittently since the 1950's, with increasing urgency in recent years, especially since the adoption of the Canadian FWI system by the UK Met Office and the European Forest Fire Information Service (EFFIS). 

However there has been limited adaptation of the underlying models to take account of the fire behaviour of fuel types unique to the UK. There is also limited capacity and institutional weaknesses that are restricting multi-agency working on the problem. The paper will review the FDRS situation in the UK, the extent to which current research supports potential applications, and make some suggestions to improve collaborative working.

Prescribed burning for resilient landscapes: aerial ignition


Working on Fire

UK Wildfires17 Cantello (pdf, 5Mb) (opens in a new window)

Uncontrolled fire is the single biggest risk to communities and forests around the globe. It is one risk factor that cannot be predicted, or fully prepared for. At some stage in a forests life it will be subjected to fire, and possible complete destruction. This is happening regularly as the increase in rural subdivisions and urban expansion has resulted in a greater number of people and facilities being located closer to forests. More people and property are now exposed to the risk of wildfire.

Pine plantations accumulate large quantities of fuel as they increase in value. Needle fall and thinning operations can develop fuel loads in excess of 100 tonnes per hectare. Any uncontrolled fire in these plantations even in mild weather conditions will result in mass death to the growing stock and put the community and firefighters at risk of injury.

Reducing the fuel loads in natural forests and plantations will reduce the spread and intensity of fires, it will give firefighting crews a better chance of extinguishing the fire and insulate communities from the devastation of uncontrolled wildfire.

Prescribed burning under strict conditions is seen to be the most cost effective and efficient way of systematically reducing forest fuels. Areas are evaluated (risk areas) and buffer zones (up to a one km wide) receive prescribed burning under the canopy to reduce the fuel loads to below 8 tonnes per hectare. Whilst burning is done under optimal weather conditions, it can be resource intensive, available only in limited time frames, and can temporarily have adverse effects on local communities (reduced air quality).

An example of controlled burning in South Africa saw Komatiland Forests burn under pine canopy approximately 30 000ha over the last three years. Most of the burning was done by manual ignition. One team (five people) can burn up to 80 ha per day. As the number of ideal burning days per annum is limited, aerial ignition was introduced to South Africa. This
method of ignition increased the area burnt dramatically, up to 1000 ha per day and gave more flexibility to introducing larger buffer areas. By burning larger areas the unit cost is also very favorable.

Prescribed burning is seen as the best solution to bring fuel loads down to acceptable levels and to keep them down. The two methods of ignition complement each other and by combining them the fire practitioner can guarantee to complete his burning schedule successfully. The additional spinoffs like increase in mushroom growth, lesser use of herbicides, etc. is seen as positive and add value to the property.

The forest industry and land managers have allowed its valuable forests and plantations to become a high risk commodity. If this continues, these areas will accumulate excessive fuel loads, adding to the likelihood of more intense bushfires and massive losses; they will be putting themselves, firefighters and communities at a greater risk.


Wildfire toolbox for year round planning and resilience

JENKINS, John*; HOPE, Craig

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service

*Presenting author (

Since 2007 south wales fire and rescue service have been involved in a project to reduce the numbers of deliberate wildfires and also increase firefighter safety

As part of this project we have developed the wildfire toolbox which covers Education, Prevention and Response, this toolbox has become a vital part of our overall strategy of reducing risk. A very important part of this toolbox is pre planning throughout the year not just during the fire season. Crews assess the risks and then put plans in place to deal with them, whether it's an educational event, high visibility patrols or making fire breaks using hand tools or fire. By adopting this toolbox we have become more resilient, have reduced the number of fires and been able to deal with fires with a lot less resources.

Prehistoric evidence for widespread wildfire activity in the British Isles

Margarita Tsakiridou1*, Mark Hardiman1, Laura Cunningham1 and David Martill2

1 Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth; 2 School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth

*Presenting author

Past wildfire activity is most often understood via the quantification of charcoal fragments from ancient sedimentary sequences, in order to allow wildfire drivers to be compared over timescales not possible with the observational record. Although such work is limited in the British Isles, charcoal has been often reported as part of wider palaeoenvironmental and archaeological investigations.

Here we present a data-synthesis of available charcoal records that span the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (LGIT, 16,000 - 8,000 calibrated years before present) for the British Isles; because the LGIT was a period of multiple and in many cases abrupt climatic shifts, it provides an excellent opportunity to study the potential role of large scale climate reorganisations on wildfire expression. However, due to the variety of the methods used for the extraction and quantification of the charcoal and the range of sedimentary contexts represented in the various sites (e.g. lake, peat bog, slope wash deposits), comparisons in terms of wildfire frequency are hampered. Here for the first time the presence or absence of charcoal is presented for each major climatic event of the LGIT. The results are depicted on a time-slices map. Notwithstanding the possible role of humans recolonizing the British Isles during this period, the synthesis demonstrates that wildfire might have been an important component for the entirety of the LGIT in the British Isles. These findings have implications for understanding natural wildfire occurrence in Britain and how the fire landscape of Britain was different during warmer climate states such as the Early Holocene.

Wildfire incidents and the impact of weather

GAZZARD, Rob¹*, POLE, Rob¹, MCCALL, Frank¹, DE JONG, Mark²*

1 Forestry Commission England, Bristol, United Kingdom; 2 Kings College London, London, United Kingdom

*Presenting authors

In 2011 Forestry Commission England undertook the first analysis of wildfire incidents using the Department Communities and Local Government (now Home Office) Incident Reporting System data taken from Fire and Rescue Service reports. At the time this provided Great Britain with its first statistical understanding of the number, area burnt, fire resources, duration and environmental impact of wildfire. 

This information has been as evidenced in numerous government documents, papers, research and guidance, most importantly to successfully secure and maintain 'H58 Extreme Wildfire' risk in the Government's National Risk Assessment and Register.

However a better understanding of wildfire incidents is needed to consider the impact of climate and weather, especially during the United Kingdom's two wildfire seasons in Spring and Summer.

Working in partnership with the Meteorological Office, Home Office, Kings College London and Forestry Commission England is now able to present the relationship between weather and wildfire incidents across Great Britain. This will significantly improve our understanding of the wildfire challenge covering seven years' worth of data between Financial Years 2009/10 to 2016/17.

The information presented will bring delegates up to speed on the latest wildfire analysis in Great Britain and highlight the policy challenge of wildfire, especially when considered to other competing, but related natural hazards within the context of media and political priorities.

Perceptions of Wildland fire in the Brecon Beacons National Park, UK

POPE, Sarah; DOERR, Stefan*; SANTIN Cristina; DOEL Marcus

Department of Geography, Swansea University, UK

*Presenting author

Acceptance of prescribed burns varies by geographical region and within the communities involved. By understanding perceptions managed burn practices can be created and improved upon and thus carried out safely and effectively. This research project's aim is to highlight and analyse the public and farmers' different perceptions of vegetation fires (both wildfires and prescribed fires) within the Brecon Beacons National Park (South Wales, UK). This project used quantitative analysis, in this case a survey (n=178) using a mixture of both closed and open ended questions. Stakeholder groups were split into farmers (n=30) and the public (n=148) which consisted of ramblers (n=31), surveys taken in a rural area (n=37), surveys taken in an urban area (n=36) and subjects who have previously visited the Brecon Beacons National Park (n=44). Word clouds were created showing the most commonly used words when discussing prescribed burning as a management tool. Whilst studies on wildland fire perceptions are increasing globally this study is one of a few studies within the UK and the first within Wales.

The project focuses specifically on (i) the locations of live fires seen by participants; (ii) whether the viewing of a vegetation fire influences the participant's perception; and (iii) participant's acceptance of prescribed fire within the Brecon Beacons National Park.

The results found that acceptance of managed burns was generally high in all concerned groups. Males and those that lived within a postcode district within the National Park were more likely to accept managed burns. Most live vegetation fires seen were located within South Wales. Whether a participant had viewed a fire influenced their perception of the positive or negative effect fires have within the Park. 69% of participants believe vegetation fires will become more frequent within the next century.

Assessing fire severity and charcoal reflectance following a recent heathland wildfire on Carn Brea, Cornwall, UK

NEW, Stacey. L1*; HUDSPITH, Victoria. A1; BELCHER, Claire. M1.

1 wildFIRE Lab, Hatherly Laboratories, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4PS, United Kingdom

*Presenting author

Charcoal is a vital tool for researchers when determining past fire histories, however, what other information charcoal holds about the fire which created it has yet to be fully determined. When looking under a microscope charcoal has a reflective quality which, when using the appropriate technique, may be able to help researchers better understand the evidence left behind after a fire. Reflected light microscopy is a technique that, by measuring charcoal reflectance could enable researchers in the future to be able to unlock the information which charcoal may possibly hold about fire behaviour. A recent wildfire in Carn Brea, Cornwall has been assessed to determine if charcoal reflectance (Ro) can be linked to fire severity along a burned area. By studying the charred remains of vegetation we may be able to build on the understanding of past fires, gaining some idea of their characteristics with the hope of one day being able to quantitatively measure the influence of fire severity on an ecosystem. Ultimately, it is important to consider the spatial distribution of heat across a burned area, and one of the aims of this research is to attempt to see if charcoal reflectance (Ro) records this. We find that charcoal reflectance is greater at sites along the burned area which have been scored as having a higher fire severity, those surrounding sites with a lower severity score have a noticeably lower Ro measurement.

The IGNIS Project: Improving response and resilience to wildfires through incident command simulation training 

STACEY, Robert1*; BLANC, Jean-Pierre2, REIS, Vitor3, METELLI, Carlo4

1 Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, Cramlington, UK; 2 ENTENTE pour la forêt Méditerranéenne, Valabre, FRANCE; 3 Escola Nacional des Bombeiros, Sintra, PORTUGAL; 4 Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco, Rome, ITALY

*Presenting author

Wildfires can be destructive and represent a significant risk to life, property, infrastructure and the environment. While large wildfires are high consequence events, they occur relatively infrequently in the UK and this limits the opportunities for incident commanders to gain sufficient experience in how to safely and effectively command these challenging incidents. There is therefore a need to develop commanders' experience through training to ensure there is a resilient pool of sufficiently trained commanders that can safely and effectively command wildfire incidents. 

Traditional approaches to wildfire incident command training include table-top exercises and large-scale field exercises; however, both approaches have their limitations. There is now a viable alternative - simulation training - which addresses some of these limitations. In particular, simulation training can significantly reduce costs and can be used to train a much greater number of commanders using a much wider range of potential scenarios. 

The key focus of the IGNIS Project is to further develop and enhance simulation training for wildfires. The two year project is co-financed by the European Commission through the Civil Protection Financial Instrument and involves four partner organisations from four EU countries (France, Italy, Portugal and the UK). The project aims to collaboratively develop and test a cost-effective and mobile simulation tool and accompanying training framework that can be used across Europe. 

Attendees at the conference will be able to learn more about the IGNIS Project, the partners and the forthcoming online Resources Centre which will help support simulation training now and in the future. 

Further information about the IGNIS Project can be found on the website -

Good fire, bad fire: optimizing prescribed burning for sustainable carbon capture and water quality


1 College of Science, Swansea University; 2 Brecon Beacons National Park Authority; 3 Department of Geography. University of Barcelona; 4 Dorset County Council GIS Team; 5 SEPA, Government of Asturias.

*Presenting author

In this poster we introduce the project "Good fire, bad fire: optimizing prescribed burning for sustainable carbon capture and water quality", funded by the Welsh Government via the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 663830), and also, partially, by the College of Science of Swansea University (UK). 

This project aims to optimize prescribed burning approaches to increase their carbon capture via charcoal production and reduce their water pollution risk by limiting ash production in key European ecosystems. This will be achieved by a collaborative effort between fire researchers at Swansea University (UK) and University of Barcelona (Spain) and land managers from Brecon Beacons National Park (Wales), the UK Fire and Rescue Services (England), and the GRAF fire fighters (Spain). This dynamic collaboration will ensure a direct pathway for end-user engagement and research impact. 

Here we present the main research objectives of the project, as well as the research plan and methodology, and look for feedback, suggestions for improvement, and potential collaborations from interested stakeholders.

Increased fire severity after drought alters vegetation regeneration in a Calluna heathland and a peat bog

GRAU-ANDRÉS, Roger1*; DAVIES, G. Matt2, GRAY, Alan3; SCOTT, Marian4; WALDRON, Susan1

1 School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK; 2 School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, USA; 3 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, UK; 4 School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Glasgow, UK

*Corresponding author

Calluna vulgaris-dominated ecosystems in northern Europe have a high conservation value and store a substantial amount of soil carbon. The projected increase in summer drought due to climate change may alter fire regimes and threaten such ecosystem services. Moreover, land managers using prescribed fires require clear guidance on what environmental conditions (e.g. moisture content) to burn under to achieve specific management objectives. To better understand the effect of pre-fire fuel moisture content (FMC) on ecosystem response, we completed prescribed fires under a wide range of FMC and surveyed the vegetation community composition 1-2 years after the fires. The experiments were completed in two Scottish Calluna-dominated habitats, a dry heath with thin (10 cm) organic soils and moss and litter layers and a raised bog with saturated peat > 1.5 m and thicker moss layers. We achieved low pre-fire FMC, which led to higher severity fires, by using rain-out shelters in 2 × 2 m plots. Fire, especially of higher severity, increased beta diversity at both sites. At the dry heath, higher fire severity led to higher abundance of forbs, dwarf shrubs and graminoids. At the raised bog, higher severity led to higher abundance of acrocarpous mosses. Higher abundance of Sphagnum mosses was observed at intermediate fire severities. We conclude that an altered fire regime consisting of higher severity fires could alter the community composition of Calluna heathlands and peat bogs. FMC determining the severity of prescribed fires can help land managers control abundance of target species.

Quantifying post-fire vegetation regrowth of UK heathlands using LiDAR scanning; a case study of St. Catherine's Hill, Dorset

MCCREADY, Matthew1; ROBINSON, Charles1, LOVELL, Harold1, SCHAEFER, Martin1 & HARDIMAN, Mark1*

1 Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth

*Presenting author

Advancements in GIS technology and processing capabilities are continuously allowing higher resolution geographical data to be collected, one strand of this is terrestrial LiDAR scanning which can be performed at increasing speed and spatial resolution (m-cm scales). In order to test the utility of this technique in the context of monitoring post-fire landscapes a case study has been undertaken following the 2015 wildfire on heathland near St. Catherine's Hill, Christchurch. Several scans have now been taken following the fire (2015-2017) on a ~80x80 metre area at 4-6 cm resolution. The results of this study show that this technique can allow heterogeneity of vegetation regrowth to be observed and compared for different elements of the landscape (e.g. hollows and slopes) and compared to wildfire severity and pre-fire habitat type, adding information at finer scales than traditional satellite based data.  

Wildfire impact assessment of Woodbury Common, Devon

GROSVENOR, Mark J.1*; JONES, Matthew W.1*, BELCHER, Claire M.1

1 wildFIRE Lab, Geography, University of Exeter, UK

*Joint presenting first authors

The April 2017 wildfire at Colaton Raleigh (Woodbury) Common, Devon, provided an opportunity to test a new integrated approach to assessing the carbon budget and fire severity with a view to inform estimations of vegetation recovery at the site.  This site makes an excellent case study for building new understanding of fire severity and carbon storage and loss because the mixed vegetation structure (grasses through to trees) and the straightforward hydrological network of the site provide for excellent experimental conditions for methodological development. We devised a series of site surveys and sample collection techniques toward developing approaches to consider ecosystem resilience. Firstly we further traditional carbon balance measurements by considering carbon exported via waterways to calculate the net carbon budget for the site post-fire. Secondly, we utilise novel charcoal based quantitative fire severity methods toward understanding pine tree mortality in the burn scar. Critically the long-term analysis of this site over the coming years will allow us to make continued assessment of recovery allowing refinement of species-specific mortality threshold responses to typical UK wildfires.

Prescribed fire and its impacts on ecosystem services in the UK

HARPER, Ashleigh R.1*, DOERR, Stefan H.1, SANTIN, Cristina1,2, FROYD, Cynthia A.2, SINNADURAI, Paul3

1 Department of Geography, Swansea University; 2 Department of Bioscience, Swansea University; 3 Brecon Beacons National Park Authority

* Presenting author

The impacts of fire on ecosystems are complex and varied affecting a range of important ecosystem services, biological diversity and ecological health. Research suggests fire has the potential to affect the physicochemical and ecological status of stream systems, alter several aspects of the carbon cycle and change vegetation type and structure within a burn area. In a non-fire prone temperate region such as the UK, fire has a long history of usage in management for enhancing the productivity of Calluna vulgaris, red grouse and sheep. This distinct socioeconomic tradition of burning has led to controversy around the use of fire in recent decades in the UK. Negative public opinion and opposition from popular media have highlighted concerns around the many potentially detrimental impacts burning can have on the health and diversity of upland habitats. It is evident there are numerous gaps in the current knowledge around the impacts of prescribed burning in non-fire prone regions. As such, land owners and managers require a greater level of certainty on the advantages and disadvantages of prescribed burning in comparison to other techniques to better inform management practices. This contribution will provide a summary of a paper reviewing the state of the art literature related to the impacts of prescribed fire on three key aspects of ecosystem services (i) water quality (ii) carbon dynamics and (iii) biodiversity. It is intended to identify future research directions, with a focus on providing guidance to land owners, managers and policy makers on the potential effects of the use of burning.

A modelling tool to predict water pollution risk from vegetation fires

Neris, Jonay1*, Elliot, William J.2, Doerr, Stefan H.1, Robichaud, Peter R.2

1 Department of Geography, College of Science, Swansea University; 2 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service

*Presenting author

The high mobility and content in potential pollutants of ash that commonly covers the ground after wildfires or managed vegetation burns can have major impacts on water quality, potentially affecting water supply of over 750 Mill. people in the world with estimated annual losses to UK water industry of ~£20 Mill. Current erosion models can predict post-fire soil delivery and anticipate its impact on aquatic ecosystems. However, ash release has not been included in these estimations so far, even so recent studies have reported ash-induced levels of toxic and carcinogenic elements up to 120 times the guideline limits in water reservoirs. 

We therefore developed a model, currently at proof-of-concept stage, that allows prediction of ash delivery to the hydrological network. It is based on recent advances in knowledge on ash production, properties and fate, coupled with a widely proven risk-based runoff-erosion modelling approach. The model uses the climate and runoff and erosion outputs of the Water Erosion Prediction Project model (WEPP) as input data to predict ash availability and transport. The model integrates the main processes involving ash, from its production to its transport and redeposition by wind or water.  Preliminary validations have reveled promising results of this first attempt to predict ash transport and its delivery to the stream system. With this model we aim to enable anticipation of ash transport risk and support land managers in designing adequate prescribed burning plans and effective actions to control ash delivery after prescribed and uncontrolled fires.

Charcoal reflectance a novel tool for assessing fire behaviour and fire severity?

BELCHER, Claire1*, NEW, Stacey1, GROSVENOR Mark1

1 wildFIRE Lab, Hatherly Laboratories, University of Exeter

*Presenting author

Reducing the impact of wildfires on the UK's forests, woodlands and shrublands is a core goal of management practices that seek to protect the provision of our ecosystems services. Charcoal is one of the most abundant products remaining at a site following a wildfire. If charcoals were able to record the signature of the fire, they might be able to inform us about the energy experienced by the ecosystem. Interestingly charcoals are known to exhibit different reflective properties when photometric measurements of the incident light radiation reflected from samples are taken. More highly reflecting chars are thought to contain a greater abundance of well-organized graphite-like domains whilst lower reflecting chars contain more complex disorganized phases. Here we report relationships between fuel and fire properties and their influence on charcoal reflectance. These have been derived from controlled laboratory experiments and instrumented field scale wildfires. Our aim is to develop charcoal reflectance as a novel quantitative metric that can provide information about fire behavior, energy exchanges and fire severity. Our team is now at the point of requiring feedback from across the field if we are to be able to move the proposal of this metric on for usage, be it for research or wildland management processes. We therefore hope that this presentation will be able to engage the UK wildfire forums to feedback their thoughts during the meeting.

Haldon Forest: a wildfire management plan


Forest Enterprise, Forestry Commission England

The Haldon Forest is a popular productive conifer forest of over 1000 hectares, 5 miles south of Exeter. The forest constitutes a large SSSI designated for its dwarf heathland, raptor, Lepidoptera
and nightjar. As a prominent feature along a ridge, with a considerable south facing slope, the forest has very high economic, natural, recreation and landscape value but also a very high wildfire risk factor.

A wildfire risk assessment was carried out in 2016 to further examine and address the wildfire concern. Based on historical data from the Fire and Rescue Service Incident Reporting System and
the hazards identified, a mapping and evidence-based assessment revealed a startling picture. The exercise highlighted a number of actions required to implement a mitigation and adaptation plan
following key principles. This plan focused around education and information provision in areas of high public recreation as well as good standard management practice such as broadleaved belts and fire breaks in low-risk areas. In higher risk areas more intensive management was prescribed in buffer and asset zones. The management of vegetation through rotational grazing regimes with
hardy cattle and annual cutting and collecting of woody material was enacted; prescribed burning is to be trialled in the coming season.

The Haldon Forest Wildfire Management Plan assimilates with the FC's Emergency Response Plan whilst endeavouring to minimise its use. The Plan is now used as a blueprint on how to measure,
mitigate and managed against wildfire risk in the forest environment.

Wildfire severity drives differences in moorland vegetation regeneration

DAVIES, G.M.1*; GRAY, A.2 & DOMENECH, Jardi R.3

1 School of Environment and Natural Resources, Kottman Hall, The Ohio State University; 2 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik; 3 Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC)

Fire is an integral part of the current management of moorland ecosystems but there is considerable debate and controversy about its ecological effects. To date few studies have examined how variation in fire regimes (i.e. fire frequency, intensity, severity, season and extent) affect moorland ecosystems. Instead, discussion can often become dominated by simplistic debate over whether fire is "good" or "bad". In reality fires, whether wild or prescribed, occur with a range or behaviours, intensities and severities that result in varying ecological outcomes. Our project evaluated the initial ecological outcomes of six wildfires that burnt across a range of moorland ecosystems from blanket bogs with deep peat soils to heathlands with shallow organic soils. We established a series of paired burnt-unburnt subplots across the fireline and classified the vegetation type according to the UK National Vegetation Classification (NVC) system. A customized version of the American "Composite Burn Index" (CBI) was used to score burn severity immediately following each fire and the frequency of all vascular and bryophyte species was recorded. Multivariate statistics showed that increased fire severity tended to drive vegetation composition further from its initial composition, but also suggested that some NVC vegetation types were more resilient to fire than others. There were also substantial differences in the effects on particular species groups. This work could be used to develop post-hoc indicators of fire severity and relate burning conditions to potential ecological outcomes.

Introducing a low-cost compact fire weather station using Arduino open-source hardware and 3D-printing

COOPER, Michael B.*; SMITH, Thomas E. L.; MAIN, Bruce; O'SHEA, Francis T.

Department of Geography, King's College London

*Presenting author

Here we present our prototype low-cost fire weather station. The weather station is equipped with the sensors required to calculate various fire weather indices (air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, wind speed) and sensors for supplementary observations useful for assessing wildfire risk and wildfire spread (soil moisture, wind direction). The station is also equipped with fire detection sensors (smoke and gas detectors) for alerting authorities of a wildfire event. All components are low-cost off-the-shelf or 3D-printed, and are connected to an open-source Arduino microcontroller. Data are transmitted via a radio frequency (RF) mesh network of stations to a base station (this may be housed at a Fire Station or National Park/forestry office) where data can be monitored and/or uploaded to the internet. The low-power consumption of the weather stations means that they can operate by battery power or solar power with infrequent maintenance. Here we also present a portable 'wearable' fire weather station prototype for fire fighter personnel. The device focusses on monitoring wildfire-incident relevant variables (temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, smoke particle concentration, carbon monoxide concentration, etc.). This wearable device also communicates data via an RF mesh network, between other personnel wearing the device, to a base station (e.g. on board an Incident Command Vehicle).

A methodology to assess the firebrand disk during wildfires

DHURANDHER, Bhisham*; THOMAS, Jan Christian; MUELLER, Eric; HADDEN, Rory

University of Edinburgh, BRE Center for Fire Safety Engineering, Edinburgh

*Presenting author

To understand the risk posed by wildfires it is essential to fully understand the mechanisms of fire spread. Of particular concern is the occurrence of 'spot fires' arising due to firebrands which are
generated during the burning of vegetation and carried by the wind. At short range, this can enhance the fire spread rate while at longer ranges this can result in ignition of structures far away
from the fire front. Little is known about the processes governing generation of firebrands. This work will address firebrand flux and the link to fire behavior. This is of particular interest because as
fire risk evolves in the UK, the need to understand the role of firebrands in the risk assessment increases.

A novel firebrand measurement device, the 'emberometer', is presented and its application demonstrated through laboratory and field scale wildfire experiments. The mass flux of firebrands
arriving at a site with known distance to the fire line will be presented as well as detailed firebrand characteristics (in particular particle size and thermal condition). By linking the firebrand generation to the fire behavior, it is possible to begin to make detailed risk assessment for this ecosystem. In addition, this data will also enable development of physics or empirical-based models of firebrand risk.

Evacuation Experiences of Stanley Mission, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Saskatchewan


1 Canadian Forest Service, Edmonton AB Canada; 2 Dept of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB Canada

*Presenting author

Stanley Mission is a community in Northern Saskatchewan, located on a reserve of Lac La Ronge Indian Band. Stanley Mission was evacuated in both 2014 and 2015 because of wildfire. In 2014, road access to their community in Northern Saskatchewan was impacted. In 2015, the Egg Fire burnt close to the reserve, threatening lives and property. Indigenous leaders in Canada have pointed out that Indigenous people suffer more during evacuations than non-Indigenous residents, and have called for improved emergency services. The First Nations Wildfire Evacuation partnership was formed in response to this call, and is comprised of First Nations communities, Indigenous organizations, federal and provincial agencies, and universities. This study details the results of one of the community-based research programs with Stanley Mission, where 30 residents of the community participated in in-depth interviews about their evacuation experiences. Recommendations on improving the evacuations of Indigenous communities during wildfire events will be presented.

What links Portugal's deadliest wildfire with the Grenfell tower disaster?

DOERR, Stefan H.1*; GONCALVES, Antiono Bento2; SANTIN, Cristina1,3

1 Department of Geography, College of Science, Swansea University; 2 Department of Geography, University of Minho; 3 Department of Bioscience, College of Science, Swansea University

*Presenting author

In one tragic week, many dozens died in two seemingly unconnected fires in the UK and Portugal.

One blazed through a high-rise building in London, far away from natural ignitions and cladded with what should have been non-flammable insulation. The other, Portugal deadliest wildfire in recorded history and allegedly started by lightning, engulfed rural communities surrounded by highly flammable forest plantations. Yet the two tragedies share parallels, and not only in the
search for answers. Both fires spread quickly and burned with an intensity well beyond what firefighters could suppress. Both caught residents largely unprepared, with their escape routes cut
off, and both left a death toll far beyond what might have been expected for either a building or a forest fire in such highly-developed countries.

This presentation examines the causes for the lack of resilience to wildfire in this region of Portugal and draws parallels with the issues that led to the UK's Grenfell tower disaster. In Portugal, hot dry weather, scattered villages with a dwindling population insufficiently prepared for fire, surrounded by steep terrain with extensive monocultures of highly-flammable trees and insufficient communication, combined into a tragic loss of life. Whilst climatic factors cannot be controlled, the accumulation of fuel around villages and escape routes, as well as insufficient preparedness and communication amongst residents are factors that can be improved. Similarly, for the Grenfell tower disaster, the use of flammable cladding material, and insufficient warning and systems and escape routes have led to the death of many.

Although the scale of both disasters surprised many, these underlying factors were in both cases associated with economics and neglect, rather than lack of underpinning scientific, engineering or
management knowledge.

Predicting fire behaviour from fire history, soil, and terrain properties?

STOOF, Cathelijne1*; OTTINK, Roos1; ZYLSTRA, Phil2; STOORVOGEL, Jetse1; CORNELISSEN, Hans3; FERNANDES, Paulo4

1 Wageningen University, the Netherlands; 2 University of Wollongong, Australia; 3 VU University, the Netherlands; 4 Universidade de Trás‐os‐Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal

*Presenting author

As part of a project that assesses how plants control fire effects on soils and hydrology, we assessed the spatial drivers of an important fire behaviour component: the proportion of live and dead fine canopy fuels. In two distinct shrubland areas in northern Portugal, we characterized live and dead fuel loads and evaluated the impacts on the spatial variability of fire behaviour using BehavePlus modelling. Study sites were the 10‐ha Valtorto catchment (8.5 yr unburned heath and gorse) 50 km SE of the city of Coimbra and the 72 km2 Alvão natural park (4 to‐ >26 yr unburned) NW of Vila Real. Results show that the proportion of fine dead canopy fuels significantly varied between species, with averages ranging from 5 to 30%. Easily measurable terrain properties explained 30‐38% of variation in modelled rate of fire spread, fire intensity and flame length. Consideration of variation in fire history or geology did not improve predictions. Incorporation of soil data improved prediction of fire intensity and flame length to 39‐55% of variation explained, yet accurate assessment of these parameters is time consuming at larger scales. There was a significant difference between the small and more natural Valtorto watershed and the larger Alvão area where cutting, grazing and winter burns have created a more heterogeneous landscape. Spatial prediction of potential fire behaviour can guide development of risk maps. This study suggests this prediction may be possible for natural landscapes but indicates that this may be highly challenging or unfeasible for human‐affected landscapes.

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