Future #1: Hot, Dry, and Out of Control

Imagine it is the year 2034. Reflect on how we got to the future described below. To participate, select “Give Input to Future(s).” (Note: When answering the questions, please imagine and envision ‘how could we get here?’ We want to understand the series of events that could lead to that future.)

FUTURE STATE: The United States is experiencing significantly more wildfire, a longer wildfire season, and fires in regions where they were not prevalent in 2014. High fuel loads result in frequent, large and damaging fires, raising the risk to both the public and firefighters. The public is alarmed and losing faith in wildland fire management. Congress determines that more funding is not the answer and fire budgets decrease due to higher priority events (e.g., overseas conflict, national debt crisis). State and local fire teams are in the lead and the Federal government has shifted to a support role. Public health impacts have risen significantly due to smoke from fires, resulting in more fatalities.

  • Required: What trends, events, or shocks (i.e. unexpected occurrences with major implications) could drive us to this future?
  • Optional: What changes to strategy, organizational structure, capabilities, and infrastructure would be necessary to address the future we are facing?
  • Optional:What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future?
  • Optional:What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future?
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Campaign: Future #1: Hot, Dry, and Out of Control

Awareness of the Fire Environment

- Gaps exist in knowledge of the fire environment risk, crew movements and communications strategy.

- There are perceived increased, significant weather events and convective changes.

- There seem to be stagnant development in situation awareness, placing fire fighters at risk.

Submitted by (@heath.hockenberry)

What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future? :

- And answer to the question - exactly where are all the people on the fire, in real time?

- Direct communications and intelligence aimed at clarifying safety zones and escape routes.

- Real-time fire progression maps, related to approaching weather.

- Real-time fire detection, immediately communicated to fire managers and weather experts.

What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future? :

- An ICS “Fire Environment” Section (IMET, FBAN, LTAN, GSAN), responsible for delivering fire environment products that take a more holistic view of the fire environment for short term briefings and incorporate resources and objectives in mid and long term planning.

- A National Fire Environment Center (analogous to the National Hurricane Center)

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Campaign: Future #1: Hot, Dry, and Out of Control

We're here already

Our current trend carries us to this future. Indeed, we are already here in many respects. No additional events or shocks are needed, especially if the current political gridlock continues. The main things I see that would be different is the shear number of species listed under the Endangered Species Act due to major vegetation changes brought by climate change and human population growth. I would not be surprised ...more »

Submitted by (@lulu10)

What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future? :

In rangelands, much better understanding of how natural events, such as defoliator outbreaks and fire, shape plant community composition and structure. In all ecosystems, a much greater willingness to experiment with radically different approaches to land management that draws on so-called traditional ecological knowledge and includes bet-hedging strategies to address the potential impacts of climate change on pant communities, fuel beds, and fire regimes. Improvements to climate predictions and downscaling of such projections to scales that better allow managers to conduct more realistic impact analyses should continue.

What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future? :

Generally, the same types of information that would help us mitigate the risks are likely to present us with opportunities we could capitalize on, provided political gridlock doesn't wreck everything first.

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Campaign: Future #1: Hot, Dry, and Out of Control

Global Climate Shift, Fuels, and Humans

The trend has been a gradual shift or multiple variables gradually changing over time, but the climate and what we view in our surroundings work like a balanced beam. Everything in the natural world is a balance that is counteracted by something else. Because humans are such powerful and advanced organisms we are able to change that balance more drastically than any other organism. Once the balance starts to go one direction ...more »

Submitted by (@wmccrady)

What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future? :

More information on how the climate is changing and better publication of that data. There should never be an argument that the scientific community as a whole is wrong, that is a ridiculous notion with no basis in reality.

Better development and use of already existing technology that can be used to improve safety and efficiency of fire suppression.

Politicians, law makers, and the public will listen to public servants and firefighters, so we need to know what we are talking about.

What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future? :

A change in temperature is not scary or enough motivation to make people change their activities. But the change in extreme weather events, climate events, and wildfire is enough to get their attention. We can use the facts to show what has changed and what will change so that the public will have an interest in changing as well.

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Campaign: Future #1: Hot, Dry, and Out of Control

NPS WHIS Fire Management Officer (FMO)

At this point, this "Future Situation" is already a present day reality. There is no good scientific argument against Global Warming, no matter what the causal factors. We are already starting to experience lengthening fire seasons, warming global temperatures and increasingly unprecedented drought conditions. Despite advances in technology and process we in the wildland fire service continue to battle increasingly ...more »

Submitted by (@tomgarcia)

What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future? :

Direct and open communication and education about were we are, what we know and where we think we are headed both internally and externally. Fire Is....neither necessarily good or bad, not completely within our ability to control when and where desired. This needs to be understood both implicitly and explicitly. We need to be clear that fire is a very necessary part and parcel of the environment. It will happen and it will not necessarily be a complete disaster when it does. It may type convert an area it may provide its preservation. It may destroy one species habitat while benefiting another. In the simplest form fire is part of an evolutionary process. Even if we can not call it a "benefit" from an agency accounting perspective, it for better or worse will likely be the only way we will consistently experience the potential benefits of landscape scale fire moving into the future. Especially as Rx fire treatments become increasing difficult to implement. We as a culture and society will have to come to grips with this.

What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future? :

Perhaps we need to do better job of selling the fact that even with events like the Rim fire, there are still tangible benefits. Even internally we tend to view these events as complete disasters. We do a good job of quantifying and interpreting the negative impacts of these events. Perhaps if we spent equal time looking into potential benefits we may find that the overall good out weighed the negative. Keep in mind.....Fire Is......neither bad or good. It fulfills both. It just depends on perspective.

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Campaign: Future #1: Hot, Dry, and Out of Control

How did we get to hot, dry, out of control future?

- I think the trends of decreasing fuels treatments, decreasing fire suppression budgets, limited funding for adequate fire safety training and employee development, more homes in the WUI, and potential climate change led to this future.

- More uncoordinated private "fire protection" through insurance companies will add to firefighter risk and injury.

Submitted by (@karenmiranda)

What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future? :

- Accurate, credible models of what happens to fire activity and suppression costs as fuels treatments decline; and alternately, how investing in fuels treatments in specific areas would reduce fire behavior and decrease suppression risk and cost.

- Credible economic insurance models to determine what fire prevention/suppression costs or insurance costs should be borne by those benefiting: property owners, business owners on public lands, etc.

What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future? :

- Business data on profits accrued/investment gains by public land users or property owners adjacent to public lands.

-Examining models from other countries on sharing fire prevention/ suppression responsibility and costs.

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