• Forest firesClimate change has doubled Western U.S. forest fire area

    Human-induced climate change has doubled the area affected by forest fires in the U.S. West over the last thirty years. Scientists say that since 1984, heightened temperatures and resulting aridity have caused fires to spread across an additional 16,000 square miles than they otherwise would have — an area larger than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. The scientists warn that further warming will increase fire exponentially in coming decades.

  • Public safetyPublic safety consolidation works well for some communities, but not for others

    In the first comprehensive work of its kind, a Michigan State University criminologist has completed a study on the implementation and outcomes of public safety consolidation — the merging of a city’s police and fire departments. The study finds that while public safety consolidation can work well for some communities, it is not the best solution for others.

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  • WildfiresImpact of demographic development on fires in ecosystems as strong as that of climate change

    Every year, about 350 million hectares of land are devastated by fires worldwide. This corresponds to about the size of India. To estimate the resulting damage to human health and economy, precise prognosis of the future development of fires is of crucial importance. Previous studies often considered climate change to be the most important factor. Now, a group of scientists has found that population development has the same impact at least.

  • WildfiresLearning to live with wildfires: how communities can become “fire-adapted”

    By Susan J. Prichard

    In recent years wildfire seasons in the western United States have become so intense that many of us who make our home in dry, fire-prone areas are grappling with how to live with fire. We know that fuel reduction in dry forests can mitigate the effects of wildfires. After decades of fire exclusion, dense and dry forests with heavy accumulations of fuel and understory vegetation often need to be treated with a combination of thinning and prescribed burning. Native peoples, less than 150 years ago, proactively burned the landscapes we currently inhabit – for personal safety, food production, and enhanced forage for deer and elk. In some places, people still maintain and use traditional fire knowledge. As we too learn to be more fire-adapted, we need to embrace fire not only as an ongoing problem but an essential part of the solution.

  • WildfiresExploring the unique relationship between fire and mankind

    Fire has been an important part of the Earth System for over 350 million years, but humans are the only animals to have used and controlled fire. The complex interrelationships between fire and mankind transcend international borders and disciplinary boundaries. The specter of climate change highlights the need to improve our understanding of these relationships across space and time.

  • FirefightingSeismic networks can serve as the backbone for 21st century firefighting

    The same twenty-first century communications network used for real-time seismic monitoring in Nevada and parts of California can provide high-quality images to help first responders catch fires before they grow costly and dangerous. Experts say that seismic networks in place to provide earthquake early warning, if designed to sustain multi-hazard monitoring, can provide a robust data backbone for fire cameras that pan, tilt and zoom as they monitor wildfires and other extreme weather events like remote floods.

  • WildfiresWildfire map shows European countries most at risk of catastrophic fire damage

    Cities and tourist areas such as Catalonia, Madrid, and Valencia are among those most at risk of catastrophic damage from wildfires in Europe, according to research. An international research team has put together a map using satellite data that details the countries in Europe with the highest likelihood of experiencing wildfire damage — with large fires occurring more frequently near “Wildland-Urban Interface” WUI areas in the countries of Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Italy, and Spain.

  • FirefightingProtecting firefighters from harm

    If there is anything common among the 1.1 million firefighters — both career and volunteer — serving in the United States, it is that at any moment, they may be required to put their lives on the line to protect people and property from disaster. But who helps protect these dedicated public servants from the on-the-job dangers they face?

  • DisastersModern buildings have an alarming flaw when people need to escape quickly

    By Achille Fonzone

    The landscapes in which many of us live would have been unimaginable to previous generations. We now have skyscrapers so striking and tall they would make Icarus turn pale. Yet in emergency situations, our seemingly brilliant designs sometimes turn against us – and become death traps when disaster strikes. There is a major problem with the way we evaluate the safety of the structures in which we live and work. Until we address it, our chances of survival are a little like those of the characters from Greek legend – in the lap of the gods.

  • WildfiresScience-based data collection key to better wildland fire defense

    In February 2011, three fires raged through suburban areas outside of Amarillo, Texas, at the wildland urban interface (WUI), the area where residential communities and undeveloped wildlands meet. A new report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes how researchers analyzed a major 2011 Texas wildland fire using a rigorous and scientifically based post-fire data collection approach, a system they believe will lead to improved defensive measures and strategies for significantly reducing structural damage and property loss.

  • WildfiresU.S. must address the “wicked problem” of wildfire

    U.S. wildfires burned more than 10.1 million acres in 2015 — a new record. Wildfire suppression costs the United States, on average, $2.9 billion a year. Researchers say that the United States must make preparing for and adapting to wildfire a top national priority, recognizing that widfire is a “wicked problem” — one so complex that a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist.

  • First respondersParamedics' risk of being assaulted far exceeds risk to firefighting colleagues

    Research found that y medical technicians and paramedics are fourteen times more likely to be violently injured on the job than the firefighters they work alongside. The researchers found that assault-related injuries are often not reported, not acknowledged by administration, and therefore they are internalized by the workers as a “part of the job.”

  • First respondersParamedics' risk of being assaulted far exceeds risk to firefighting colleagues

    Research found that y medical technicians and paramedics are fourteen times more likely to be violently injured on the job than the firefighters they work alongside. The researchers found that assault-related injuries are often not reported, not acknowledged by administration, and therefore they are internalized by the workers as a “part of the job.”

  • First responseA firefighter drone flies, crawls up walls

    The 1974 American disaster film “Towering Inferno” depicted well the earnest struggles of firefighters engaged in ending a fire at a 138-story skyscraper. To this day, fires at high-rise buildings are considered one of the most dangerous disasters. Researchers developed a wall-climbing scout drone to fight fires in high-rises, finding the source of the fires and locating people trapped inside.

  • FirefightingNew sensors detect cable fire before it starts burning

    Fires are frequently caused by smoldering cables. New sensors now help detect such smoldering fires at an early stage by analyzing the plastic vapors released by overheated insulating cables. Scientists have developed these hybrid sensors that combine measurement processes with data evaluation. These detect the gases released from the plastic coating due to heating and reliably identify and analyze the gas mixture and its concentration.