6th Short Course on Fire Safety

Short bio: Jason Sharples is Professor of Bushfire Dynamics and Director of the UNSW Bushfire Research Group in the School of Science, UNSW Canberra. He has led several Australian Research Council (ARC) and Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) projects and is involved in international wildfire research projects. These projects consider various aspects of extreme and dynamic bushfire propagation, the development of large conflagrations and bushfire risk management. His expertise is particularly relevant because of the large gap between the predictions of current mathematical models of fire behaviour and actual fire behaviour, and because of the increasing prevalence of extreme wildfires due to climate change.

Preliminary Programme

Speakers

Short bio: Sébastien Lahaye, President of Warucene and European Project coordinator for SAFE (France).Fire officer during 20 years in the South of France, Sébastien completed a PhD on dangerous wildfire behaviours in Europe and Australia. In 2017 he was research associate at UNSW Canberra, where he is still visiting lecturer. He is now coordinator of Fire-In, a H2020 European project building a network of Fire and Rescue practitioners to boost research and innovation. He has also an active role in FirEUrisk and Firelogue, EU projects to raise holistic management of wildfire risk. Since 2020, he has founded Warucene Company, providing expertise and services to increase societal resilience: fireproof buildings, innovative solutions, trainings to raise public awareness, coordination of the French national network of prescribed burnings (with foresters, firefighters and pastoral farmers)… For more than ten years now he has upgraded his bottom up experience in international research and development activities in relation with wildfires.

Abstract: Firefighters often face “extreme” fire behaviours, which eventually entrap them. Through investigation of Fire Services’ internal reports, we will see here the weather and terrain leading to these dangerous fires in Euro-Mediterranean countries, Australia and North-America. Whatever the regional specificities, more than 100 firefighters’ entrapments across the world were investigated to find the contribution of dynamic fire behaviors in these entrapments. We’ll dissociate and detail three different types of fires. During topography-influenced fires, in mountainous area, almost all the entrapments happen on slopes steeper than 20°, prone to flame attachment. During wind-driven fires, leeward slopes prone to vorticity-driven lateral fire spread are the most prominent configurations associated with entrapments. Finally, during convective fires, which are the most violent, entrapments can happen far away from any dangerous configuration. We will finally discuss the potential added-value of fire behavior analysts (FBAN) capabilities to improve the safety. FBAN may consider feedbacks from previous fires to suggest the most efficient and secure firefighting strategies and locations.

Short bio: Dr Alexander Filkov is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physical and Mathematical Sciences from Tomsk State University, Russia and was previously an Associate Professor there. His research focuses on better understanding of dynamic fire behaviours, their influence on ignition and combustion of fuels, transition mechanisms of wildland fires into Wildland-Urban Interface areas and fire performance of structural materials. Dr. Filkov serves as a co-leader of the “Ignition Resistant Communities” at the “Large Outdoor Fires and the Built Environment” working group (International Association of Fire Safety Science) and is on board for the International Fire Safety Consortium. He serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Safety Science and Resilience. Dr. Filkov has been awarded the Early Career Award in Fire Science by the International Association of Wildland Fires and Laureate of the Tomsk Oblast Prize in the Field of Education and Science. He is co-author of over 50 journal articles and 40 conference papers.

Abstract: Over the past decade, there have been extreme wildfire events around the world resulting in significant social, economic and environmental impacts. They threaten many lives and cost billions of dollars in damage. Climate change is making the fire seasons around the world even worse by extending the number of dry and hot days. A longer fire season is expected to result in more frequent and severe fires with devastating ecological consequences and impacts on human populations. In most cases, these consequences are the result of dynamic fire behavioursMerging fires are a form of dynamic fire behaviour that can lead to rapid increases in fire intensity and rate of spread causing significant risks for residents and fire suppression crews. A better understanding of the dynamic nature of fire line merging can be used to improve firefighter safety and better support decision making around fighting fires and ignition methods during planned burning operations to better achieve fuel reduction and ecological objectives. This talk presents materials to provide operational and management personnel with an overview of current research on merging fires, its implications for firefighter safety and its utilisation for fire suppression and fire management.

Short bio: Mark A. Finney is a Senior Scientist and Research Forester with the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. He has devoted his career to understanding fire as an ecological and physical process and has conducted research on prescribed burning and fuel treatment effects across the western United States. His wildfire modeling forms basis for operational wildfire predictions throughout the US. He holds a Ph.D. in wildland fire science from Univ. California at Berkeley (1991), an M.S. in Fire Ecology from University of Washington (1986), and a B.S. in Forestry from Colorado State University (1984).

Abstract: One firefighter was killed on the El Dorado fire in California in conjunction with a burnout operation. A detailed review of the environmental conditions and actions by the firefighters revealed that the causes were related to dynamics of the fire plume created by the burnout operation. Combinations of fuel, wind, topography, and the fire related to the ignition produced locally extreme conditions that were not anticipated. But these can be understood and hopefully prevented in future.

Short bio: Mika is a fire weather researcher in the High Impact Weather team at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. She has worked in all Australian states and territories in a range of roles in forecasting operations, training and research as well as embedded in fire agencies. Her research activities investigate fire-atmosphere interactions and how they influence fire behaviour, with a focus on bushfire case studies and running high resolution fire-atmosphere coupled simulations. She collaborates with stakeholders in fire agencies and land management groups to develop understanding of how the atmosphere in three dimensions will drive fire behaviour. Ultimately, this helps predict where and how a fire will spread. When required during extreme weather events, Mika takes an operational role, briefing key stakeholders on the weather situation and assessing likely impacts on the community. She regularly presents nationally and internationally at conferences and workshops as well as invited media interviews and science events in the community.

Abstract: Heatwaves are a sequence of consecutive days and nights with unusually high maximum and minimum temperatures. Heatwave conditions are often associated with extreme fire behaviour, and support rapid and early transition of the boundary layer to a daytime structure and hot, dry conditions that continue overnight. Therefore, fire danger reaches elevated levels earlier in the day and persists into the evening, thereby lengthening the window of hours during which fires will actively spread, leading to larger fires and an extended threat to firefighter and public safety. The same climate drivers of heatwaves are synonymous with droughts, therefore fine and coarse dead fuel becomes extremely dry in response to lack of rainfall, elevated temperatures and low relative humidity. Live vegetation also becomes stressed and available to burn, thereby increasing the quantity of combustible fuel in the landscape.Heatwaves and droughts have become more frequent in recent decades and are predicted to become commonplace in a changing climate and this will influence future fire regimes. More frequent and longer heatwave events during drought periods will result in conditions where overnight suppression is dangerous, if even possible, and fire perimeters will continue to expand over several days and nights. This future fire scenario presents strategic and tactical challenges for resourcing and responding to overnight fire runs and multi-day events, with specific implications for firefighter safety (particularly firefighter fatigue) and for messaging to mitigate the impacts on communities at night. This talk will highlight recent insights into extreme fire behaviour during heatwave conditions and its implications for firefighter and public safety, as the climate shifts to a state that is more conducive to these occurrences.

Short bio: António Jorge Ferreira, MD, MSc, PhD is Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra, Portugal, in the areas of Preventive Medicine, Pulmonology, Occupational Health, Community and Public Health. He has a postgraduate degree in Occupational Medicine, a master’s in Occupational Health and a PhD in Health Sciences (Preventive and Community Medicine). He is the coordinator of the Master’s in Occupational Health and of the Postgraduate Course in Occupational Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra, where he currently is the Director of the Office for Advanced Studies. He is a specialist in Pulmonology and Occupational Medicine and also works as interventional pulmonologist at Coimbra Hospital and Universitary Centre, Portugal. He is the vice-president of the Association for Respiratory Research – Coimbra, Portugal.

Abstract: In general, major risks are recognized in the activities performed by firefighters, which are directly or indirectly related to the possibility of occurrence of accidents and other health risks, including respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies. Acute and chronic occupational exposures in wildland firefighting can induce significant pulmonary pathophysiological changes, with increased inflammation and oxidative stress and decreased lung function. Acute smoke inhalation is a complex and potentially deadly syndrome involving a multisystemic response to exposure to numerous chemical agents and particles that result from the combustion of a variety of materials. It can occur in open or closed environments and may or may not be associated with coexisting skin burns. The clinical presentation associated with acute smoke inhalation occurs primarily through exposure to direct or convection heat, inhalation of asphyxiating gases, and exposure to neurological and respiratory irritants. The specific toxicology of the main fire effluents has been exhaustively studied. Several substances present important risks related with asphyxiating properties (carbon monoxide, hydrocyanic acid), irritants and toxic substances (hydrobromic acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, crotonaldehyde, formaldehyde, phenol, toluene), but also the very low levels of oxygen present in fire zones can be of high concern.Wildland smoke inhalation can cause not only acute but also long-term health effects on exposed professionals. Suggested preventive measures include regular health evaluation, use of adequate protecting equipment and individual monitoring devices, planning of fire-fighting shifts and exposure assessment.

Short bio: Vivien Thomson has been involved in the Australian Fire Industry for 35 years, and has held several senior firefighting positions, including Captain, Incident Controller, Divisional Commander and Rural Liaison Officer. She is also a Director of the Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance. In 2004, she was the first woman to receive the Australian Fire Service Medal in the ACT and the twelfth female overall in Australia. She is the author of the ground-breaking books “Ashes of the Firefighters” and “What You Wouldn’t Believe”. Vivien has experienced the impacts of climate change through extreme weather events, that effect our capacity to fight fires. As a firefighter she has witnessed firsthand the devastation and the increasing risk to our communities, and our mental health.

Abstract: Fire seasons are becoming more and more extreme with the ever-increasing impacts from climate change. While the risk to firefighter’s physical safety is well appreciated and is addressed through enhanced training as research is undertaken and we update our learnings, the implications for mental health are less appreciated or studied. Mental health impacts do not necessarily present immediately, nor can they be immediately resolved when identified – it can take months or even years. In some cases, it is a gradual effect. It can take time for a first responder’s emotional bucket to fill and begin to overflow. The impacts go beyond direct exposure to more frequent fire events, which will cause greater risks and more challenging decision making for those that work not just on the frontlines, but those in incident management teams (planners, safety officers, radio operators, etc.). Current projections indicate that by 2040, the summer of 2019, which is the hottest and driest on record in Australia, will be an average year. The frequency, intensity and length of associated severe fire seasons will mean that fatigue and trauma will become a significant issue for those working in fire management. I first saw the effects of climate change while fighting fires in 2001. I couldn't explain what I was witnessing on the fireground then, and within another two years we had our first catastrophic fire season in the ACT surrounding the capital city of Canberra in 2003. What we witnessed 20 years ago I thought we would never see again – I described what I saw to scientists at the time as like the entire atmosphere on fire. Trees 50m apart burst into flame in the crown with no supporting surface fire or any continuity of fuel. Yet during the black summer of 2019-2020 fires, we saw it again and again and again. In this talk I will discuss the mental toll of these severe wildfire seasons, from the perspective of a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ firefighter. I will talk about the impacts of witnessing these catastrophic fire events and look at the long-term effects it will have on our firefighter’s mental health. The term “firestorm” does not come close to describing the impacts and long-term trauma. Trauma is not a once in a lifetime event that effects 10% of all first responders anymore, it is our life, our families and our communities. There is pain, there are impacts, and we are vulnerable. As part of our future management of our member’s welfare, we need to carefully consider the mental health impacts of climate change as part of our response and recovery.

Short bio: Dr. Todd Miner is a Senior Instructor and the Education Director for the Wilderness & Environmental Medicine Section in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He has designed and/or taught wilderness medicine courses for medical students, physicians and health care professionals, wilderness guides, commercial fishers, wildlife rangers, and wildland firefighters. Miner has trained as a wildland firefighter, is a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and is a nationally-recognized expert in teaching wilderness and austere medicine.

Abstract:

Wildland Firefighter Safety: Responding to Injuries & Fatalities

There is no question that wildland firefighting is a hazardous occupation. But how hazardous? From what causes? Creating what kind of injuries? These fundamental questions have not been thoroughly explored, much less answered. In the US, even something as critical and seemingly straightforward as number of annual fatalities, is not clearly documented. Learn about how little we know and critical facts about what we do know regarding firefighter injuries and fatalities. This workshop will review what evidence there is, make recommendations based on the evidence (or lack of evidence), and make a plea for more robust study into wildland firefighter epidemiology.

Wildland Firefighter First Aid: Frontline Safety for Firefighters

Despite hazardous duty and high expectations, to date the US has had no first aid course specifically designed for the unique and significant dangers and environmental challenges of wildland firefighters. The University of Colorado School of Medicine has responded to this gap by developing Wildland Firefighter First Aid (WFFA). WFFA is a minimum 16-hour course specifically designed for non-medical wildland firefighters on the fireline, in transport, and/or in training. WFFA focuses on prevention, assessment, trauma, and environmental hazards, with an emphasis on practical, hands-on skills. The course has been offered at an advanced academy to very positive reviews. This workshop provides an overview of WFFA, including sample content and the teaching of hands-on skills. Learn about a unique and new curriculum to enhance firefighters’ safety and learn and practice practical hands-on skills yourself!

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