Extinguishing inefficiency

If you ever find yourself in the path of a wildfire, you might not be comforted to learn how officials go about finding the resources to combat such a blaze. Two words: Phone tag.

According to Jon Skeels of the National Wildfire Coordination Group, current procedures rely heavily on dispatch officials closest to a fire making telephone calls to determine which crews, supplies, planes and special equipment are available. Dispatchers might place as many as 15 calls, and orders can take several days to fill, Skeels said.

And along the way, the request can be distorted. NWCG officials tracked one resources order that went through 22 offices—and was altered at each stop. Skeels compared the process to the party game that involves a whispered phrase passed from person to person. What you get in the end is seldom what you started with.

"It's probably the biggest version of the telephone game," he said. "That's kind of the way the current system is." To help keep the message straight, a new software system is being employed. The Resource Ordering and Status System (ROSS), which will be deployed to more than 400 dispatch offices operated by NWCG's 56 agency members, will automate the wildfire resource ordering and status reporting process. The goal is to give responders an instant view of what is available and where. NWCG, a federal and state interagency group led by the Forest Service, coordinates wildfire management efforts.

"By automating this, we are able to see [available resources] immediately, and as things change, the status is automatically updated," said Skeels, ROSS project team leader for NWCG. "Just knowing where resources are is a very important piece of information."

Such information is provided to officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, each day, but by the time it's all compiled, "it's old news," Skeels said. By having status information available at their fingertips, ROSS' 6,000 users will be able to make more informed resource decisions, he said.

For example, under the existing system, dispatchers might not realize that crews are available nearby and could end up requesting some from another part of the country, wasting time and money. With ROSS, a list of the closest available resources is presented to the dispatcher, and if they are selected, the system automatically adjusts that group's status as "committed" and unavailable for other dispatchers to use.

Based on efficiency improvements, NWCG officials estimate ROSS will save $15.7 million a year.

ROSS is a Web-based application written in Java that exchanges data through an interface using Extensible Markup Language. Designed by Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Information Support Services business unit, ROSS is a compilation of commercial off-the-shelf database, server, geographic information system and business logic products.

NWCG started developing business requirements for the system in 1997 and began designing it with Lockheed in April 1999, said Paul Condit, ROSS project manager for Lockheed Martin. Two of the three main components of the system—the administrative and status functions—are being deployed now. A component enabling dispatchers to order resources will be phased in later this year, and the installation and training should be complete by December 2002, Condit said.

Although it is not technologically distinctive, ROSS is impressive for its ability to communicate with so many agency systems, Skeels said. "This is truly one of the first inter.agency information systems development proj.ects in the nation," he said. The system uses Versata Inc.'s Versata Logic Server to interpret and enforce application business rules and logic to allocate firefighting resources, said Manish Chandra, the company's vice president for worldwide marketing.

"The server is able to manage different logistics as your business rules are changing, [which is important] in any kind of system where you have dynamic characteristics," such as wildfires, he said.

MORE INFO

Slower burn

Fire responders have had an easier time this year compared with the

2000 fire season, which was "long, difficult and stretched resources to

the breaking point," according to a report from the National Interagency

Fire Center. "Veteran firefighters reported burning conditions and fire

behavior that they had never before seen...and hope to never see again."

This year, as of July 16, there were 46,484 fires across the country,

compared with 53,519 for the same period last year. The 10-year average

for the same period is 48,510 fires. The number of acres burned is also

down significantly—1.3 million to date compared with 2.5 million in 2000

and the 10-year average of 1.6 million.

Source: National Interagency Fire Center

NEXT STORY: Doing home work

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.