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Scientists and Researchers Studying Wildfires Seek Input

The seven-member team include scholars seeking to develop a digital platform to study various aspects of wildfires, including pre-ignition factors and post-ignition factors, to gain actionable intelligence for communities.

firefighters battling a wildfire
A team of scientists and researchers is embarking on a five-year study program to develop actionable strategies for dealing with wildfires — both pre-ignition and post-ignition — and is looking for first responders, land managers and others with knowledge and experience of wildfires to join in the discussion.

Led by Hamed Ebrahimian, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, the seven-member group to develop a digital platform they hope will predict and help monitor wildfire risk and eventually be used as actionable information for wildfire managers, land managers, utility companies and responders.

The program begins this September backed by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Leading Engineering for America's Prosperity, Health, and Infrastructure (LEAP-HI) program.

Ebrahimian says he wants it to be more than just a science project by scientists and researchers, hence the call for experts in the field to join in a consortium or to contribute data by emailing Ebrahimian.

Most wildfire studies focus on one aspect of the wildfire, such as ignition of fires, researchers are hoping to conduct a more holistic study that examines data from various sources on pre-ignition and post-ignition and looks at different outcomes, including the toll on residents and the economy.

“The research and the messaging are one aspect of the study, but really transferring the message to the community and end users is an equally important aspect of this,” Ebrahimian said. “The platform will collect data from various sources and integrate it into a model to eventually lead to actionable information. We’d like to be able to predict how it’s going to spark and how it’s going to propagate and behave.”

Despite previous studies and lessons learned, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to pre-ignition risk and post-ignition risk, and it is hoped this study can fill in some of the gaps.

“For example, we want to understand if there is higher risk in a certain area and what the contributing factors are,” Ebrahimian said. “What is the most effective action that we can take and how do we quantify all these things in a scientific way.”

He said the holistic framework of the study and collecting information from various sources and areas will yield actionable data that will help communities better deal with wildfires. “When it comes to post-ignition data, we have fire line data and are thinking about using lidar and radar to predict the fire fronts,” Ebrahimian said. “The idea is to collect data from various different sources, and if people are observing something or if firefighters are reporting something, we can collect that data from active fires and integrate that data with our data stream.”

The team of researchers includes an associate professor in fire ecology; a director of weather systems and research; a professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering at the University of Buffalo; a professor of business; and an atmospheric science professor.

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