Minutes for the Wildland Fire Operations Research

Centre Advisory Committee Meeting


September 19, 2001: 1300-1630

Aspen Room, 16th Floor 'The Inn on 7th'


In Attendance:


Marv Clark (Chairman) Gary Dakin

Warren Kehr Greg Baxter

Archie Jacobs Alex Sinclair

Terry Van Nest (for Don Podlubny) Con Dermott

Judi Beck Kelly O'shea

Ray Ault Dennis Driscoll

Marty Alexander


Meeting began at 1300.


Marv Clark opened the meeting as Chairman by welcoming everyone and then provided a few housekeeping notices followed by an announcement that due to the new security measures at the airport, the meeting should conclude by 16:10 to allow those with flights to clear security in enough time to make their flights.




Previous Minutes - M. Clark raised the minutes from the meeting on February 13, 2001 held in Hinton as part of the official opening of the WFORC. He asked if there was any discussion or corrections required. There were none. C. Dermott moved the minutes were accepted and A. Jacobs seconded the motion.



Project Reviews


The meeting began with reviews of the progress made on the current projects of the WFORC.


Web-site Development - G. Baxter presented an overview of the web-site. He began by thanking Rex Hsieh, a summer student from NAIT who was brought on for 4 months to design, build and implement the web-site. G. Baxter then explained the features of the site, both on the home page and the individual project pages. He asked the advisory committee to use the discussion forums and provide any advice or comments they have.


General Comments from the Committee were suggestions on how and where we could send the site address to increase publicity. Suggestions included sending a note to Firenet, letting the people in Missoula know (MTDC) and the committee themselves will help to advertise the site. Steps have been taken to list the site with the major search engines such as Google.ca.


Top-piles as ignition sources and as control problems


G.Baxter then went on to present an overview of what has taken place in this project. He began by stating this is a complex problem and that everyone has their own concerns and solutions to the problems of burning top-piles. The objectives of this year's work were presented and a brief fire history of 'slash' fires in Alberta for 1961-2000 was presented. The data shows the number of all provincial fires increasing over the last 4 decades whereas the number of 'slash' fires has actually decreased (to date this fire history only includes provincial data - forest industry data is still coming in). A big drop in the number of slash fires occurred around 1985 when hauling to roadside and topping became standard industry practice. This is do to centralising the fuel source and that fewer hectares now contained slash. Slash fires were also presented by location, date, size, cost, FWI indices and windspeed.


Four trips within the province have been made - this was done to include industry from the main biogeographical regions of the province to understand the major considerations and problems industry has with burning. Five main concerns have come from these companies. These include: the fire risk/danger from burning, economic concerns, ecological concerns, liability and re-planting issues were the most common. The cost of an excursion was the number one worry.


The final comment was that these piles do present a fire risk that exists for up to 30 years and they do contribute to problematic fire behaviour when wildfires or excursions occur. Fuel removal must take place and this can be done through 'better burning practices' or mechanical means. Next years research will concentrate on finding the most economic and safe means of fuel removal.


W. Kehr asked how industry could further help with this project. G. Baxter answered by saying he will send out a list of questions that could be circulated which will help complete the fire history dataset. As well, G. Baxter mentioned he would like to travel out this winter and observe the burning of piles.


Travel rates through four Alberta Fuel Types


G. Dakin presented a Power Point Presention which he will be presenting at the Fire Safety Summit to be held at Missoula MT in November.


G. Dakins presentation concentrated on the methodology used to set up the research. To begin he presented a list of 7 questions he wants to answer through this study and then presented information on the type of fire crews selected for use and the four fuel types chosen. He then walked the group through the step-by-step methodology and the equipment used in his work.


G. Dakin then presented some preliminary data to the group. This included the number of trials that have taken place by crew type. He also presented a figure showing a comparison of the fastest times by each fire crew for each type of fuel they travelled through.


There were a number of questions and comments:

K. O'Shea - asked how 'fatigue' is worked into the results. This is done by the random order of trials and by using the base fitness level for each person as determined by the shuttle run.


M. Alexander - commented that just the act of getting these crews to do this research will act to increase their awareness of fire fighter safety and the fact that improving an escape route is extremely important.


A.Sinclair asked if there was centralised spring training for firefighters in Alberta and if so, all should have this as part of their training. The rappel crews are all trained in Hinton and this could be done for them. (This could also be used for slope research).




G. Dakin spoke on the ICFME project in the NWT and the interface work which is taking place there and noted that he and G. Baxter travelled up in June to burn the second interface plot. Unfortunately, the watertable was too high and the required burning conditions did not occur. This plot is still to be burned.


Pre-suppression Preparedness System


J. Beck spoke briefly on the work she has done on this project which included a trip to Edmonton (PFFC) to discuss the PPS with D. Driscoll and to witness the system working on a daily time step. She then travelled to Whitecourt and sat in on daily operations in the duty room where she received valuable information on the operational side.


Her first observation is that the PPS is based on the daily weather forecast and that errors made in these forecasts do influence the decisions made in the office. She mentioned there were technical issues that had some easy solutions. An example of this is what happens when it rains during the day - solution: re-run the PPS. Another example includes a rain event precluded by lighting. The PPS has the area coded as 'Blue' (low danger) whereas the potential for holdovers is not included. Other issues included the potential impact of multiple-fire scenarios is not currently worked into the PPS, and that other parameters should be used to base decisions on rather than just HFI's as is currently the practice.


J. Beck's final point was that the LFS could draw on the services of meteorologists for their 'daily' hand-drawn opinion of the potential lightning distribution with-in their forest.



Infrared Technologies


J. Beck started by thanking the LFS for their helpful assistance in arranging for the use of the AWIS plane as well as the FLIR equipped birddog plane. It took a while for the weather and fire situations to cooperate, but finally, over a three-day period four runs were made over the test site. She also thanked those that helped on the ground at such early hours and the list includes Mark Ackerman and Shirley Niven from the U of A Engineering Department and Chuck Ogilvie (LFS Consultant).


J. Beck presented a short description of the set-up and noted that the technical specifications have been worked out and that the geometry involved is understood and is incorporated into the general findings and specifications she has put together from the trials. Temperatures of smouldering, glowing and flaming combustion were quantified earlier in the year in Jasper at a prescribed fire and this information was applied to this work.


Expectations and outcomes are combined with data from a questionaire circulated through industry earlier in the year. Outcomes from this work can also be applied to the scanning of piles by industry.


Early results are that all targets were picked up by AWIS and FLIR (except for the sterno burners which burned out quickly). From the data, thresholds are able to be determined. Flights ranged from 3,000 -10,000 above surface level at 2,000-foot intervals.


Minimum Standards for Water Delivery Systems on Prime Movers


R. Ault began by saying that a lot of time was spent at the Chisholm fire observing and photographing water-delivery systems which were in use there. He spent considerable time talking to operators about the designs and capabilities of the water delivery systems. He noted that there are an infinite number of designs, and some very good ones. He also met with operators at their place of business to furhter discuss the designs with them.


Ray will select a number of designs that meet a minimum standard and post these on the WFORC web-site (with approval from the owners) for those in the industry to consult for ideas when planning to build a water delivery system or for those who would like to buy one from someone.


R. Ault will also write us a set of standards for this equipment which includes foam proportioners and place a minimum of 15 'good' designs on the web-site with contact information. R. Ault commented on how these machines are paid saying that it makes 'no-sense' and should be looked at.


W. Kehr asked how industry could help and R. Ault said they could help by providing the contact details of the top 2-3 contractors used by the companies as potential contacts.


R. Ault finished by stating he will head out one more time this season with G. Dakin to look at tanks before they are all taken off for the winter.



R. Ault explained how he went about his analysis of footwear related injuries to firefighters in Alberta by starting with the dataset of all injuries and then picking out those that were specifically footwear related (which includes slips, trips and falls). This was done with Neil Gratton's help (OHS).


R. Ault found that of the (not exact numbers) 11,600 injuries, 916 cases are footwear related and of these, 23% are categorised as slips, trips or falls. This data has been compiled and is to be presented to OHS in an attempt to gain permission to field trial NFPA approved boots (soft-toed).


R. Ault has contacted a number of major boot manufacturers for their boot specifications.


Currently in Alberta you are required to have CSA approved boots. Ray pointed out the limitations to this, including how steel-toes may in-fact contribute to injuries (he noted BC has fewer foot injuries and use soft-toed boots). R. Ault then went on to explain how trips are associated with steel-toes, which are in part due to the fatigue of the muscle on the front of the shin. This fatigue leads to a higher probability of injury. He also pointed out that there are only 3 steel-toe sizes made (the actual toe part) and therefore some people will never get a good fit eg. if the steel-toe is a size 8 and you have a size 9 foot. Fatigue may not show up on the mill floor, but it does on the fireline.


C. Dermott asked what type of non-CSA approved boot exist. There are National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) approved boots eg. Whites.


M. Clark pointed out (now that he understands the fatigue factor) that in fact, there are a lot of trips in the shops.


K. O'Shea noted that this was an Industry Standard that was adopted by the Forest Service ~ 1995. He also added that this want not done along with the OHS, as they were on the 'other-side' during the discussions (this is unlike in BC where J. Beck commented that they worked together with OHS before this issue arose). OHS is on the other side with the side-impact headgear as well.


C. Dermott stated that steel-toes are 'Company Policy' for a number of different companies.


Side Impact Headgear


R. Ault commented that a lot of talk by the firefighters at the Chisholm fire was concentrated on the side-impact helmets and specifically on how 'hot' they are. The WFORC has just received a proposal to quantify the temperature differences that result from different types of headwear. This research would cost $30,000 and would be completed early in the new year.


It was commented on that this type of 'overheating' may lead to other types of accidents on the fireline.


This was not an official research topic of the group for 2001, but some 'exploratory' work was done.


This wrapped up the overviews of the current projects at the WFORC and a 20-minute break followed.


1420 Resume


New Project Review and Prioritising


The anticipated outcomes of this session are to present potential research projects which have been submitted by those on the Advisory Committee (as they have been understood by R. Ault) and then to determine the priority each has as a potential project for next year research program.


M. Clark proposed the standard FERIC procedure for the ranking of projects. The procedure is to present the project, discuss it and then vote on its priority (members could either vote High, Medium or Low priority). The group 'generally' accepted this procedure.


Voting members of the committee included: W. Kehr, A. Jacobs, M. Alexander, D. Driscoll, K. O'Shea, C. Dermott and T. Van Nest (for D. Podlubny) for a total of 7 possible votes.


1.      Side-impact headgear. Ray presented the U of A project proposal to the committee including cost and timeline. Will include 15-20 subjects walking on a treadmill in full gear for 45 minutes. A lot of effort required to raise temperatures. Body temperature measurement techniques was also discussed. 6 weeks and $30,000.


High 2 Medium 2 Low 3


2.      Protective Eyewear. This protective equipment is provided but is rarely worn by the firefighters. This project proposes a needs analysis as to why they do not wear them.


High 2 Medium 2 Low 1


A.Sinclair stated there should be more projects put forward than can be completed by the researchers. Thus, if one project is not able to be worked on due to weather, the fire situation, etc. another project may be picked up in it's place.


K. O'Shea - reiterated the fact that this is "fireline" operational research and this should be kept in mind.


3.      Smoke and dust exposure of firefighters. Only comment was that the MTDC (Missoula) has done a lot of work. This could be a literature search type of project.


High 1 Medium 0 Low 5


4.      Number of Seasonal Firefighters. D. Driscoll explained what he was after for this project. Currently, there are not enough emergency firefighters (ff's) and this leads to the importing of crews. If the appropriate number of FF's is found leading to the hiring more seasonal staff, $ could be saved in the cost of importing fire crews.


T. Van Nest commented that the LFS does not know where these FF's have gone and why.


W. Kehr stated the '98 fire review could be used for this.

M. Alexander mentioned that Ontario has done a lot of this and that would be a good place to start.

C. Dermott asked if this was to include Municipal FF's. Is this a CIFCC problem and is this research?


High 1 Medium 2 Low 3


5.      IR Scanning. J. Beck mentioned this would take 30 days plus an additional 30 if helicopters are to be included. This was just a Continuation vote.

6.      Firefighter Accommodation. Changes in tents and accommodation has taken place and there is a need to replace the current canvas tents due to age. OHS directs Fire Camp Regulations so an investigation into alternatives should include them and be done before the new regulations are just handed down.


D. Driscoll: OHS upgrades coming for tents in the bush - we should get in ahead of these.

M. Alexander: this is a CIFCC job, whereas, Foam is a WFORC job (which CIFCC is currently doing).

A.     Sinclair - this issue still requires feeling out and it is currently an Alberta issue.

D. Driscoll - if no one is doing it (this work) - we should. Canvas tents may again be the standard.


High 1 Medium 2 Low 3


M. Clark asked "if projects don't 'go' here, how do we get them to CIFCC?" D. Driscoll said he is on their committee and could bring the issues up.


General statement: WFORC work can be National in scope.


7.      S-64 vs CL215 etc. This project would entail the production of Guidelines for use which would include environmental conditions, and the economic best use.


M. Alexander mentions he has been voting based on a successful completion of the projects. This one can be done quickly and can use simulations. Therefore it receives a High priority if achievable.

A.Sinclair - the WFORC does have exploratory research capabilities - we could collect data on this and see if it is an issue.

M.Clark - after we prioritise - more in-depth proposals will be written where we fine-tune the deliverables.


High 2 Medium 4 Low 0


8.      Efficiencies and effectiveness of various helicopter types. This is a machine vs task problem.


C.Dermott - this is tough because you have to decide what is efficient and then compare that to what you have at your disposal - most of the time these don't match.

D.Driscoll - said that currently choosing a machine to man-up with or move crews is a personal preference type thing - and is not always the right one.

K. O'Shea - Education is the thing. You may need this to show others.


High 2 Medium 3 Low 1


9.      Fire Lookouts. Some exploratory research has already taken place. Bosch & Loam and the Military have been contacted for technological solutions to this problem.


A.Sinclair - The Advisory group is able to change the question.


A literature search and review could be used to identify technology to improve fire detection.


Comment - this is bigger than just looking at lookouts - this is an overall detection problem.


New wording of project: Identify technologies to increase fire detection capabilities.


High 5 Medium 1 Low 0


C.Dermott stated this is a broad area of research. How do we narrow it?


W. Kehr asked if there is a template or process that can be used to solicit new projects in the future.


10.  Mill Site Fires. C. Dermott explained this project by saying he was looking for a way to minimise the use of LFS suppression on facility or log deck fires. He was wondering what technology is available now (like the jet engine used to shoot water (he passed pictures around of this)). He wants a proactive approach to these fires.


K. O'Shea stated this is an important project, but is this the group to do it??

T. Van Nest - could use the web site as a place to compile data/stories/new technologies and equipment for mill fires. Case studies could be put on the web on specific logdeck or facility fires.

C.Dermott - a report with recommendations could be included as an output.


High 3 Medium 1 Low 2


11.  Selective Harvesting in Pine and Spruce and its impact on the fire environment. The outline was read to the group. This would be a longer-term project that would require a lot of co-operation with industry in site selection and harvesting.


D.Driscoll - this can easily tie-in with interface work which is currently occurring as it involves fuel modification to 'bullet proof' the forest.

M.Alexander - this would be a long project. As written up in the summary 2-3 years.

J. Beck - research would include 2 minute fires and would produce Probability of ignition information.

M.Alexander mentioned the case study at the ICFME in the NWT where there was no difference in fire behaviour between a treated and non-treated site - although there was no slash left in the plot from the thinning.


High 4 Medium 0 Low 1


12.  Fire Guard Treatments. C.Dermott described the project to the group as 'linear disturbances' treated in different ways to reduce fire ignition and spread. Linear disturbances include powerlines and pipelines and treatments such as mowing or not-mowing. This applies to highways as well. Mulching is an example of a treatment that reduces fire risk over a number of years.


Comment - can we as the fire industry convince other industry to do something about this?


Tree-freeing - there still are fine fuels on the site. Can minimise risk of fire by using these linear areas for fire movement.


T. Van Nest - look at USA and the work they have done on species flammability. Plant less fire prone species in these linear areas.


High 1 Medium 2 Low 2


13.  Anecdotal Landscape Issues. This project would use interviews with fire managers to determine what landscape features assist in the control of wildfires. This includes features such as riparian zones, cutblock edges, etc. There is a lot of data on Landscape management and this project will not try to duplicate this. It is more of an Expert Opinion survey.


K.O'Shea - should this project be linked with the previous two as one-part of landscape modelling? Maybe this is not for this group. What can a small group do?


M.Alexander - could this be approached as a case study (ie. use the '98 Virginia Hills fire). As there were many useful examples at that fire.


A.     Sinclair - maybe tie together what everyone is doing in this area. Could look at what groups such as the Model Forest are doing and bring it all together in one report.


High 1 Medium 4 Low 1


14.  ALPAC - Project is to use scorching to reduce competition and to increase the albedo to improve growing conditions.


M.Clark - asked if it possible to document the effectiveness of the process. Also, this could be an equipment development project - design a large torch to burn large areas.


Comment - this could be applicable to linear disturbances - burn the area and it will come back green. This is agriculture equipment used for weeds that needs modification for larger areas.


Proposed as a Feasibility study under 'Exploratory Research'.


15.  GPS and Bulldozers. As submitted by Paul Woodard (U of A). This was quickly dropped off the potential list of projects.


Other Projects from the floor.


D.Driscoll - brought up concerns from FPAC (?) meeting with issues concerned with linear disturbances.

        Distance from stand - how much distance for trees

        Appropriate clearance for fires

        Powerline widths

        Risk of fire


M. Clark - mentioned there are windproofing techniques currently used in BC to protect edges.

There is a Powerline Working Group and Jewels(?) is the LFS representative on the group.


T.Van Nest (for D. Podlubny).


Three topics to bring up (from an original list of 9).

1.      Tracking Fireline equipment and personnel. This is within and outside of the Province. A BC company can put bar-codes on equipment and FF's could carry cards with magnetic strips containing their information.

2.      From Entrapment - FF's internal and external qualifications. Are they capable of specific work tasked to them. EXPERIENCE is required in personal information. Overhead teams need access and knowledge of this experience.

3.      Safety Guidelines - A Go-no-go process for ff's on the fireline based on daily weather data and fuel type.


Comments - K. O'Shea - Type 1 or better on exports. Even at that level, experience is critical. Also, ICS should address this problem in 2003 when implemented.

These three projects may be an internal Resource Management Issue.


Go-No-Go issue could be worked on by group using a decision tree analysis and approach.


High 3 Medium 2 Low 0


Sprinklers - M.Alexander brought up the issue of sprinklers and how they could be used for interface situations to pre-wet areas prior to fire arrival. This subject was quickly voted on as there are many applications for the use of sprinklers.


High 5 Medium 0 Low 0


Comment - T. Van Nest mentioned that he did a search for publications or research on the use of sprinklers for structural or other values at risk and came up with nothing. This included contacting San Demas. The only material he could find came from Ontario.


End of New Project Summaries and Prioritising


Strategic Directions Meeting


A.Sinclair addressed the Advisory Group of the outcomes from the Strategic Directions meeting which was held in Hinton on the 21st of August.


The goal was to carry on and expand the WFORC after the initial three years funding had expired, and this meant looking at staffing levels and skill sets and where funding was to come from. The researchers along with Alex, Marv and Pierre Giguire (Head Office) were in attendance.


Would like to pass along what was discussed and then present the groups plan to Craig Quintilio and Cliff Henderson at a meeting on Monday, September 24 in Edmonton.


Cliff Henderson will then present the results to the Board of Directors of FERIC to put a Business Plan together.


We are going to require help to approach others in industry when it comes to raising funds. Assistance could be to 'push' the outputs of the group and the advantages of the research. This includes other provinces, forest companies, insurance companies, M.D's, etc all could be part of the support base.


A.     Sinclair then listed the four Program Directions the group decided on:

        Equipment Development

        PPE ( a type of National Standards group)

        Fuel Management

        Operations Management


Support Services - at this time, the WFORC does everything. A support service network will need to be established.




W. Kehr - Industry would support as this is an H & P issue. But extreme care is required to design this as it could be seen as subsidies (where research is not considered as a subsidy).


M.Alexander - WFORC needs to do a National inventory (via a survey) of what kind of support and projects are out there - this needs to be done next year at this time.


C.Dermott - In the forest industry, fire is not the only issue - other industries have as yet, not contributed. We need the oil & gas industry, the power companies to become involved.


W.Kehr - Group needs to spend time with other folks at the school. The connections made are very important.


K.O'Shea - Prov/Fed $ for research - how available is this? We currently (or recently had) national support for this group after Petawawa closed down. Don't get crossed up with other groups.


M.Alexander- CIFCC 7 Point Plan - no mention of the centre in it. J. Beck mentioned not a direct mention, but group is included within the plan.


A.Sinclair - initially Eastern Branch not supportive of the WFORC, but it is now up and running. Once established it may go national, but will keep it Saskatchewan - west at this time.


W.Kehr - BioCanada/Alberta initiative - Life Sciences which includes Agriculture and Forestry. There is potential for funding from this group. Warren will follow up on this.


M. Alexander - showed the group his poster of the WFORC and explained future work at the site that he believes should include WFORC involvement - especially in the interface and fuel treatment side of the research.


R.Ault - quickly showed and explained the 'Baxter-Hoe' which is a tool that applies water while a firefighter is digging up hotspots. This tool is a mop-up tool to be used with a moveable watertank.


Meeting adjourned at 1630.