3 2019

The IAWF Ember Award is given to recognize and acknowledge sustained achievement in wildland fire science. All nominees for the 2019 Award represent individuals who have and continue to make significant contributions in this area.

Annually, IAWF receives nominations for many highly regarded, deserving, and accomplished individuals that have demonstrated sustained achievement clearly worthy of recognition. However, historically, only one recipient has been honored each year.

For 2019, once again many deserving individuals have been nominated. Because there are so many nominees that have extensive achievements for the betterment of wildland fire management are extensive, we are extremely proud to announce that for 2019, IAWF has elected to award the Ember Award to three individuals who have a marked record of achievement, have made significant long-standing contributions, are highly respected in wildland fire management, and are deserving of the Ember Award.

The Ember Awards were presented at the Fire Behavior and Fuels conferences in Australia and the United States.

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Dr. Wendy Anderson

Throughout her career, Anderson has made highly significant contributions to wildland fire science, notably in the areas of fuel assessment and fire behavior. Her work with the analysis of experimental laboratory and field fires has aided in the development of models to support fire management decision making.

She has published a substantial number of research articles, book chapters and technical reports that have significantly contributed to the advances of wildland fire science across a broad range of fuel types (forest, grass, shrubland) and topic areas including fire propagation, fuel consumption, fuel moisture dynamics and fire danger.

Since completing her PhD at the University of New South Wales in 1987 Anderson has played a pivotal role in the development of an effective international fire behavior research community. Her mentoring role in supporting aspiring scientists through the complex physical attributes of wildland fire research while maintaining a patient considerate approach is second to none. Both in Europe, Australia and New Zealand a generation of current leaders in fire science can be identified as being her direct students and/or having closely worked with her in their early careers. Her Short-courses on fire behavior delivered in the early 90’s to late 2000’s in Coimbra, Portugal provided early career fire behavior researchers with a clear view of a cluttered, and sometimes chaotic field with multiple and sometimes competing research approaches.

In addition to Anderson’s unparalleled academic work, she also devoted substantial energy to support and advise fire and land management agencies in Australia and New Zealand. Anderson established a bridge between complex scientific results and the needs of end users, providing advice on the most appropriate science to support fire management organization’s processes and decision making.

Anderson has retired from the School of Physical Environment and Mathematical Sciences, Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales, Canberra but she has continued to actively contribute to advancing wildland fire science through publication of scientific papers, mentoring early career scientists, and advising and training fire and land managers.

It can be easily stated that without Anderson’s contribution to fire science the current capability to predict fire propagation in Australia and elsewhere in the world would be greatly diminished, with inherent negative repercussions to the safety of fire fighters and the public alike.

Anderson’s award was presented at the Sydney, Australia conference.

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Dr. Mark Finney

Research Scientist, U.S. Forest Service. Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. Missoula, MT.

Dr. Mark Finney has made highly significant contributions to wildland fire science through research in fire behavior. This research has involved fire behavior fundamentals and how key they are to understanding the opportunities for improving fire behavior modeling, especially for crown fires. He has led efforts to develop quantitative risk assessment that is essential to evaluating cost-effective operations in fire management.

He is best known as the father of FARSITE, the world’s most successful wildfire behavior model, which is now an essential component of Forestry Agencies, Firefighting Command Centers and Fire Ecology Departments across the world.

FARSITE has been used since 1995 to model spatial fire behavior throughout the world. The model allows both suppression and prescribed fire managers to estimate more accurately where fires might burn, their potential intensity, spotting potential, use of different fire management tactics, and how to better deploy human resources. Before its development all fire simulations were one-dimensional, had no spatial component, and could not take landscape considerations into account. Also before FARSITE, fire behavior analysis work was done by a long and tedious manual process, often too slow to inform Command Centers. Finney’s work has paved the way for the development of similar computer models, and multiple fire behavior models in the US, Canada and Australia.

Not only are Finney’s fire modelling contributions a standalone tool for foresters, ecologists and firefighters across the world, but FARSITE is now available as part of the U.S. Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) that is used in planning on every large and long duration federal wildland fire.

But his contributions do not stop there, Finney has supported wildland fire science in other areas, including, but not limited to:

  • Co-creating FlamMap, the software for fire mapping and analysis system used to study potential fire behavior across the landscape);
  • Serving as team leader for the development of national Wildland Fire Investment Planning System (WFIPS) software designed for spatial modeling of initial attack, fuel treatment effects, and large fire costs to inform five federal land management agencies;
  • Developing the Fire Spread Probability Model (FSPro) to aid managers in determining the probability of where and how a fire may spread to; and
  • Led development of tools available in the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) in the U.S., which has received numerous awards and recognition, including the Forest Service Chief’s Science and Technology Award twice and the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Technology Transfer.

His current research focuses on the study of fire spread in deep and discontinuous fuel beds, which will improve understanding of the fire behaviors that are not understood and able to be predicted today, such as crown fire. He is also investigating fire simulation for the purposes of risk assessment, to support the development of two major fire management systems, WFDSS and the Fire Planning Analysis (FPA). The Fire Spread Probability model (FSPro) is used in WFDSS to estimate the probability of impact of an ongoing large fire. A similar model, FSIM, is used to estimate burn probability and variability in fire behavior across large landscapes.

There is no doubt that through his scientific contributions, Finney has greatly improved our understanding of fire behavior and advanced wildland fire science worldwide.

Finney is out of the country and his award will be presented at a later date.

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IAWF 2019 Ember Award winners Tom Zimmerman Roger Ottmar Morgan Varner.jpg
Roger Ottmar (center) receives Ember Award from Tom Zimmerman (left) and Morgan Varner (right). Photo credit: Marjie Brown

Roger Ottmar

Roger Ottmar has delivered actionable wildland fire science for over 35 years that has enormous benefits for the wildland fire system. He has led national programs that have resulted in 1) 19 volumes of the wildland fuels photo series (digital and hardcopy); 2) operational fuel consumption and emission production models; 3) the Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS), and 4) assessing firefighter exposure to smoke. Ottmar is the original designer and project lead for the Fuel Characteristic Classification System and the CONSUME application currently in use by land managers across the country for building fuel beds and modeling fuel consumption and emissions from wildland fire.

Ottmar has authored and co-authored over 300 research publications and final reports and has served as principal investigator and Federal Cooperator on more than 100 grants, agreements, and co-ops between other Forest Service Research Stations, governmental agencies, private corporations, and Universities. He stands-out as one of the most prolific scientists to have worked with the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) since its inception in 1998. He regularly presents research at major scientific conferences. Ottmar has led over 35 classes on smoke management and leads several fuels workshops each year, including NWCG training. Ottmar led over 100 scientists and technicians during the Joint Fire Science Program funded Prescribed Fire and Combustion Dynamics Research Experiment (RxCADRE) that was completed in September 2014. Ottmar now leads the much larger national level Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation (FASMEE) Project (www.fasmee.net). Although these accomplishments are vast, Ottmar stands out even farther because of his professionalism and ability to build and lead coalitions within the wildland fire system. In the field of wildland fuels and modeling Ottmar’s name rings amongst the loudest.

Some specifics include:

  • Leads the Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) which calculates and classifies fuel bed characteristics (surface through canopy) and their potential fire behavior. Standard FCCS fuel beds exist throughout much of North America and are and important data product of LANDFIRE and are a main foundational data layer in IFT-DSS (https://iftdss.firenet.gov).
  • Leads the Natural Fuels Photo Series which comprises 15 volumes of registered photographs along with accompanying fuel data which are used to make quick, easy, and inexpensive determinations of fuel quantities and stand conditions for both planning and response operations. (see: https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/fera/publications/factsheets/factsheet_ps.pdf).
  • Has served as an expert on fuel characterization and consumption in numerous workshops involving a large, diverse set of federal and non-federal scientists and practitioners. Important collaborators include EPA, DoD, the Forest Service, NOAA, NASA, and state organizations. Further, he serves as a prominent national consultant and technical expert on assessing top priorities for fire effects modeling and air quality-related research questions. Many of these collaborations do not involve funding, rather it has been Ottmar’s professionalism and dedication to the importance of wildland fire science that governed his participation.
  • For the last five years, led the development and implementation of the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE), a multi-agency, national effort to provide advanced measurements necessary to improve operational fire and smoke modeling applications and their foundational scientific models. By its very nature FASMEE involves a complex network of stakeholders, coalitions, collaborators, and partners.. Most recently, Ottmar has led a coalition of researchers that have successfully competed for over $5m in new research funding from DoD that compliments the FASMEE program.

Although he is a great and diligent scientist, of equal importance is his ability to interact and work with other people. Many can attest to the unsurpassed role he has played in communicating fuels-related information in various training courses and other settings. He makes incredibly complex biophysical fire science topics easily understandable, which contributes to his research being implemented on the ground for real-world positive outcomes. He is a consummate professional and always ready to commend versus criticize.

Ottmar’s award was presented at the Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Albuquerque, NM.