Simulating wildfires through technology

A wildfire exercise in the Breamish Valley.
A wildfire exercise in the Breamish Valley.

Northumberland fire and rescue officers are learning how to use simulation technology to train for large and destructive wildfires.

NFRS staff have attended a special training workshop in the south of France to learn more about how to train using virtual reality. They will be helping to improve and develop this training over the next 18 months.

The new training package, a product of the IGNIS project (Initiative for Global Management of big fire through Simulation), is a simulation tool which will be used by emergency services across Europe to train officers in how to safely and effectively control and extinguish large wildfires.

The project, financed by the European Commission’s Civil Protection Financial Instrument, brings together the expertise and knowledge of emergency services from European countries including France, Italy, Portugal and the UK and will enhance the training currently available on the continent.

The simulation tool will consist of a network of computers that will run advanced gaming-style software to present officers with a realistic virtual environment, including changing weather conditions.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley, of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Due to the risks involved, it is very difficult to provide realistic training for large wildfires, but with the IGNIS training resource we can provide our officers with the experience they need to confidently command and tackle large fires out in the open.

“We feel very privileged to be involved in this project and to help to create a resource that will improve training for wildfires dramatically.”

The training package will test commanders’ abilities to deploy resources and to plan and mitigate the potential impacts of wildfires on local communities.

Dave Ledger, chairman of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Authority and deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “In rural areas like Northumberland, wildfires are a potential risk but thanks to this new state-of-the-art training package, our officers will be better equipped to protect our county.”