[5/4/22] Internationally Recognized Wildfire Expert Coming To Chelan County

Posted in Wildfire

An internationally recognized leader in wildland fire and fire science will visit Chelan County next week to conduct a field study that aims to better determine the origin point of wildland fires.

Working in conjunction with the Chelan County Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service, Dr. Albert Simeoni of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., will bring his team to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for six days of preparation and testing. The testing event, called the Wildland Fire Pattern Indicator Reliability Study, will be May 9-13.

Simeoni is an internationally recognized leader in fire science with more than 15 years of experience developing experimental and analytical techniques to better understand fire dynamics and predict fire behavior. He is the head of the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Chelan County Fire Marshal Stephen Rinaldi and personnel with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Wenatchee Ranger District were able to convince Simeoni to add a site in north central Washington to the study.

Rinaldi says Chelan County offers different types of vegetation and sloping topography not found on the East Coast. The data collected will be specific to this area and will aid fire investigators throughout the Northwest. The test site will be near Fish Lake, about 20 miles north of Leavenworth. The site, which will include 16 1-acre test plots, has a mixture of timber, grass and shrub.

In March, a team that included Simeoni, Rinaldi and Mike Barajas, Wenatchee River Ranger District assistant fire management officer, visited the Fish Lake area to identify several areas that would accommodate the test burns needed for the study.

During the May event, instrumentation such as weather stations, thermocouples and cameras will be used on each test plot to collect data. Study participants then will examine the sites to identify typical indicators – and their reliability – that are used in the investigation of wildland fires to help determine origin and cause. The information gathered then can be replicated as well by Simeoni’s team in a lab for future study.

Rinaldi says the information that will be derived from the study will have a profound impact on the industry as a whole, from aligning fire investigator techniques on a national level to better identifying people responsible for wildfires on a local level. The data gathered also may be expanded into other research areas, including forest health and suppression methods.

Rinaldi adds they hope to have a successful event so Dr. Simeoni and his team consider coming back to conduct research every year.