Developing a Fire Danger Rating System for the UK: FireBeaters Phase I final report. Report to the Scottish Wildfire Forum.
Legg, Colin J
Davies, Gwilym Matthew
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Introduction and objectives The objective of this research is to develop a predictive tool for the management of wildfire in the UK and for facilitating good practice by those who work with fire in semi-natural vegetation. This will include a comprehensive system for predicting the weather conditions that control fire frequency and severity. We will publish tools using weather data to predict fire behaviour across a range of vegetation types and environmental conditions. Phase I of the project ran from January – May 2006 and from October 2006 – May 2007. The objectives for Phase I were to extend the current five-day prediction of severity of fire weather conditions in England and Wales to cover Scotland and to develop a web-based tool for predicting the behaviour of management fires in heather moorland. The work was funded by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Natural Heritage. Work was guided by the Steering Committee comprising representatives from the Scottish Wildfire Forum (chair), the Scottish Executive, The Fire & Rescue Services and Scottish Natural Heritage.The deliverables for Phase I, as itemised in the initial proposal, were as follows: • A five-point Fire Weather Index published daily on the Web for Scotland providing five-day predictions at 10-km resolution. • Fully monitored experimental fires in heather moorland at several sites throughout Scotland to extend the current knowledge base. • Web-based system for collecting validation data for heathland management fires and for recording wildfires in all vegetation types throughout the UK. • A fuel moisture model for heather relating fuel moisture to weather and site conditions. • Review of end user requirements and recommendations on implementing these. • Fire behaviour prediction for muirburn published on the Web. Implementation of a cutdown version as pocket ‘slide-rule’ or nomographs. Predictions to include estimates of rates of spread, flame length and minimum firebreak width for a range of heather-dominated fuels. • Magazine and newsletter articles publicising the project and requesting information. • Phase I Report for external peer reviewMethods • Fully instrumented experimental ‘management’ fires were conducted on two sites, two large burns under ‘wildfire’ conditions on two sites and twelve small ignition tests at a fifth site. • A database has been constructed for recording experimental fires, normal management fires and wildfires. • Heathland fuel moisture data have been collected for all fires conducted as part of this project and from a variety of other sources. • Simple models have been developed for the prediction of rate of spread and intensity (and hence flame length and ease of control) for heather fires based on fuel characteristics, wind speed and fuel moisture. • The Met Office has supplied weather records and forecast (National Weather Prediction – NWP) data for the UK from 2003 onwards. Various weather indices including the Canadian Fire Weather Indices have been calculated for all fire records and fuel moisture measurements for which data are available.Achievements • Twelve full experimental fires, twelve ignition tests and two wildfire-type fires were fully instrumented and the data added to existing information on heathland fires. • The database now contains detailed information for 39 fully instrumented experimental fires and basic records for 134 management fires and 6699 wildfires occurring from 2000 onwards. • Simple models have been developed for the prediction of rate of spread and intensity (and hence flame length and ease of control) for heather fires based on fuel characteristics and wind speed. • Fuel moisture data have been collected for 1541 samples on 84 independent days and have been related to various weather indices. • A web site for the dissemination to the general public of information about managed burning and wildfire has been created at http://firebeaters.org.uk • A five-point fire weather index (the Met Office Fire Severity Index - MOFSI) for Scotland has been published on the FireBeaters Web site. This provides a five-day forecast of exceptional weather conditions on a 10-km grid-square basis. Exceptional conditions are those where fires are likely to be frequent, difficult to control and to have severe environmental effects.