Wildfires are becoming more common. Fire managers often use prescribed burns to get rid of excess fuels which have accumulated on the forest floor. However, sometimes prescribed burns can go wrong and get out of control, which is what happened in Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico in 2000. This prescribed burn turned into a megafire which burned 150,000 acres adn more than 230 homes in the nearby town of Los Alamos.
These fires are very sensitive to small changes in conditions such as sudden gusts of wind, a larger or dryer patch of fuel, etc. But now, due to the new FIRETEC modeling tool developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, prescribed fire managers can use the equivalent of a flight simulator to understand and plan for prescribed burns and the real complexities that drive fire outcome.
NMC Affiliate Rodman Linn’s article Fighting Wildfires with Computer Models published August 27, 2019 in Scientific American, discusses the FIRETEC modeling tool developed at Los Alamos. This tool uses algorithms to help fire crews know where to set fires using prescribed burns to remove excess fuel from the forest floor.
To read the entire article see: Fighting Wildfires with Computer Models by Rodman Linn and J. Kevin Hiers.
Photo credit by Krista Schlyer, Getty Images