Are wildfires becoming more extreme?
As part of an effort to answer that question, Nevada researcher Tamara Wall is calling on current and past wildland firefighters across the nation to share personal experiences of instances in which they witnessed surprising fire behavior.
"This project is driven by a phrase increasingly heard among fire agencies at the management level: I've never seen a fire behave like that before," said Wall, who is leading a collaborative effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Desert Research Institute, a nonprofit research campus of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
Participants are encouraged to provide as many experiences as they want in an online program that takes as little as five minutes to complete.
"We're looking for a diversity of stories across geographies and time scales," Wall said. "We'll analyze a combination of observations – climate, weather, fuels, for example – with firefighters' reflections and case studies to determine if situational awareness factors can be identified to lessen the surprise of megafires and unusual wildlands fires, and incorporated into management training strategies.
"The goal is to gain a better understanding of public and firefighter safety under hotter, drier conditions," said Wall, who hopes to expand the project to other countries.
The deadline for participating in the project is Nov. 30. Firefighters wishing to contribute their stories may contact dri.edu\firestories.