First Wildland Fire Commission Report Focuses on Aviation


Ron Steffens at Wildfire Today has a nice summary with links. I don’t know anything about this topic, but  I thought these two were interesting…and might require attention in NEPA docs? Or perhaps a multi-fed programmatic for  drones?

Using Aviation for Prescribed Burns (p 35)

Aerial resources may be used to support the use of proactive, beneficial fire like prescribed fire, both through assisting with aerial ignitions and by being on hand to respond to contingencies or undesired outcomes. However, the Commission heard that cost and availability make it difficult for agencies to access aviation resources for these project-related (rather than response-related) purposes. For example, when used for project activities not associated with wildfire response, some aviation costs must be charged to agencies’ general program budgets, which are often strained by a number of needs and priorities. For most entities, this fact makes aviation resources cost prohibitive. As an additional challenge, Commission members shared that aerial assets are often unavailable during prescribed burn windows, either because those burns happen outside the terms of seasonal contracts or because resources are occupied on wildland fires in one region when other regions have opportunities to proactively burn. In sum, greater use of beneficial fire is currently limited, in part, by overall aviation capacity and available funding. Improved aviation availability and capacity may help allow for more proactive management options in addition to providing contingency resources [F8]. As such, the Commission recommends that Congress and agencies ensure greater availability of aviation resources for risk mitigation projects, including prescribed fire [R17]

National Drone Policy (p 36)

While issues of national security are clearly important and require careful consideration, the Commission recommends improvement in the availability of drone technology for use in wildland fire [R18]. Emerging development and integration of UAS technology is a significant operational innovation in wildland fire (NIAC, 2017) and is seen by some as potentially replacing or complementing use of manned aviation resources for activities such as sensing and monitoring.
Indeed, the NIAC Vision 2027 strategic plan notes that UAS “may be the first aviation-associated operational innovation for wildland fire management operations in almost fifty years” (NIAC, 2017). UAS technology can, and should, be more robustly utilized overall in the aerial wildland fire space. In addition to needs associated with the overall availability of UAS technology, the Commission was informed that at this time, the wildland fire community lacks a national strategy for integration of this technology. Given this status, the Commission recommends that agencies develop a national UAS strategy for wildland fire [R19].

1 thought on “First Wildland Fire Commission Report Focuses on Aviation”

  1. The big challenge is the “wildfire industrial complex” has too much momentum when it comes to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the biggest and most expensive (wasteful) aviation equipment that sucks the life out of the subsidies and funding for building huge fleets of drones and other remote sensing tools that once the technology advances will eliminate a
    large number of human beings who currently have to put their lives at risk to fight wildfires.

    I’m quite certain that when people of a 100 years from now look back on wildfire management of today they’ll see it more as a killing machine that indiscriminately throw humans and ecosystems into a meat grinder of death in the name of saving them. As in the things we ask wildland firefighters to do will one day be recognized for how barbaric and inhumane it really is.


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