CBS News Radio San Francisco has recently talked to Ross D. Collins about the results of the FireENgine project. Ross is one of the authors of the scientific paper published in the Journal of Environmental Management, where it is discussed a model illustrating the relationships that contribute to forest-fire management.
FireEngine is one of the 20 Projects funded by FCT under the MIT Portugal Program. The paper that has been recently published results from the close interaction between Portuguese INESC TEC, MIT ESD and Portucel Soporcel researchers (Ross D. Collins, Richard de Neufville, João Claro Tiago Oliveira, Abílio P. Pacheco). They combined regional fire data, such as the number of fires and the amount of land burned per year, with interviews conducted with fire managers, policymakers, and academics to draw up a model illustrating the relationships that contribute to forest-fire management. Much like in business, they found fire management can fall into the firefighting trap: Energy and resources are spent mostly on fire suppression — putting out fires in the moment — while less attention is devoted to fire prevention, such as clearing brush and building fire lanes during the off-season.
In particular, the team identified a factor that exacerbates the firefighting trap: instinctive, automatic reactions to particularly damaging fire seasons. They found that after severe fires, policymakers — driven by public pressure — funnel more funds into fire suppression for the next season. While this may put people temporarily at ease, this attention to fire suppression may undermine prevention efforts. The result, counter-intuitively, is even worse fires the following season, due to the buildup of fire-prone materials such as dried tinder and dead trees.
Read also the full press release at MIT News.
In the media:
ScienceBlog ; Fire Engineering ; Physorg ; Laboratory Equipment