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Comments Regarding the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Operational Requirements and Capability Analysis

The Colorado Center of Excellence’s Comments Regarding the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Operational Requirements and Capability Analysis: Report of Findings

Background

On May 31, 2019, the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report detailing the findings of an Integrated Project Team  tasked with investigating new and emerging technology that could be applied to wildland fire incident response. In particular, the Integrated Project Team investigated areas of innovation that could be applied to the issue of Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) fires and promote/provide for improved operational response to save lives in WUI fires. The report, titled Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Operational Requirements and Capability Analysis: Report of Findings (hereinafter referred to as “The Report”) is available here:

https://www.dhs.gov/publication/st-wui-fire-operational-requirements-and-capability-analysis-report-findings

The Colorado Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting (CoE; (cofiretech.org) commends DHS S&T for the comprehensive work detailed in the report. Because several of the areas discussed in The Report touch on areas of active research at the CoE, as well as active operations at the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC), it seemed prudent to release a review of CoE projects related to findings in The Report.

About the Center of Excellence

The Center of Excellence was created by the Colorado Legislature in 2014 to study and advance the technology related to wildland fire operations in Colorado. While the CoE’s title includes “Aerial Firefighting,” in fact, the scope of CoE research is broader than just aerial firefighting efforts. As is recognized in the wildland firefighting community, aerial firefighting represents only one aspect, albeit a visible one, of wildland firefighting. Effective response to wildland fires requires an integrated effort that includes bringing multiple resources to the response. The CoE’s endeavors mirror that multi-faceted approach. In addition, while the CoE is focused on wildland fire, many of the CoE’s projects can and do support non–wildland fire response (e.g., structure, vehicle, hazmat) as well as other emergency operations, including law enforcement and emergency response. 

CoE Analysis of The Report

To those skilled in the art of wildland firefighting and WUI fires, few of the items discussed in The Report come as a surprise. Instead, the detailed ranking and analysis of the technologies and solutions adds a layer of structure to a body of common knowledge within the community. Indeed, the seven key findings in Table 1 of The Report are all areas that have been recognized in the community as critical or important to effective management of wildland fires and, in particular, safeguarding the lives of the public and responders impacted by these events.  

The Report does a good job of compiling and prioritizing challenges and opportunities. Furthermore, The Report touches on modern technologies that can and should be deployed on wildland fire and WUI events. Ancillary benefits in response to other natural and manmade disasters become quickly obvious.