Portugal: 3rd International Conference on Forest Fire Research & 14th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology (IFFN No. 20 – March 1999)

3rd International Conference on Forest Fire Research &
14th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology

Luso, Portugal, 16 – 20 November 1998

(IFFN No. 20 – March 1999)

During the 16 to 20 November 1998 the “3rd. International Conference on Forest Fire Research” and the “14th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology” took place in Luso, Portugal. The first of these Conferences has been sponsored by the University of Coimbra since 1990 every four years in Portugal. The “Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology” is held every two years, usually in the USA or Canada. The last time it was held in 1996 in Lorne, Australia. Convening the “14th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology” in Luso, was a first for Europe.

The Conferences had an attendance of 310 scientists and delegates from research and management institutions of 30 different countries from five continents. During the three and half days dedicated to formal sessions, around two hundred and fifty papers were presented in oral or poster form, including nine invited lectures on topics of general interest. As during the previous conferences the presentations were organised in the following five main sections and their respective subjects:

Section A – General and Institutional Aspects

  • Institutional organisation of fire management agencies;
  • Cooperation between research and operational institutions;
  • Medical aspects

Section B – Fire Behaviour

  • Physics
  • Experiments
  • Software

Section C – Fire Meteorology

  • Fire danger
  • Wind modelling
  • Satellites

Section D – Fire Effects

  • Air, water and soil
  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Landscape

Section E – Fire Management

  • Detection
  • Fuel management
  • Fire management systems

All papers presented during the Conferences are published on 2600 pages of a two proceedings volumes that were made available to the participants at the beginning of the meeting. The invited lectures were given in plenary sessions. The thematic papers were presented in three parallel sessions. Two half-day sessions were organised for the presentation and discussion of posters.

The opening lecture was presented by Michael Fosberg, Climate Impact Research Institute (Potsdam, Germany). It dealt with Global Change and Fire Risk. Two of the invited lectures were given by representatives of the World Meteorological Organisation, Yeves Ruiz, and of the World Health Organisation, Dietrich Schwela. Yeves Ruiz referred to the effort of WMO in establishing general directives to support the Meteo Services of the countries affected by forest fires and in providing the specific services required by the other services. D.Schwela spoke about the impacts of forest fires on human health, dealing in particular with potential diseases of the respiratory system. Based on the experience of the 1997 Indonesia fires, he mentioned the great concern shared by the WHO on the consequences of forest fires to the populations living in the vicinity of large forest fires and to all those involved in fire suppression activities, because of their intense exposure to smoke and particles emitted by the fire.

Terry Clarke, National Center for Atmospheric Research (U.S.A.), gave an invited lecture on Coupled Atmosphere-Fire Dynamics. José M.Moreno, Universidade Complutense de Madrid, spoke about Scale Effects and Fire Ecology. Ricardo Velez, Nature Conservation Institute of Spain, presented the details of institutional cooperation between research and operational programmes in his country. Martin Alexander, Canadian Forest Service, introduced the International Crown Fire Modelling experiment. Michael Flannigan, also from the Canadian Forest Service, gave a lecture on the Past, Present and Future of Fire Weather Research. The closing invited lecture was given by Malcolm Gill, CSIRO (Australia), and it dealt with an Hierarchy of Fire Effects and their Effects on Landscapes.

This Conference was organised by a Commission presided over by the author and including around twenty scientists and representatives of operational institutions from various countries. The honorary commission included several Portuguese authorities and representatives of international institutions involved in the problem of forest fires worldwide.

On 19 and 20 November 1998 a study tour to the National Park of Montesinho, in the Northeast of Portugal took place. With the cooperation of the Directorate of the Park and of the National Institute for Nature Conservation, various projects related to fuel reduction and fire prevention were presented to the participants. A visit to some areas that burned during last summer was also included in the programme.

Benefitting from the presence in Portugal of some of the most renown specialists in fire behaviour prediction, the third edition of the Short Course on Fire Behaviour Modelling was organised. This course took place on 21 and 22 November 1998 and was directed by Wendy Catchpole (University of New South Wales, Australia). Three other scientists participated in teaching various subjects to an audience of around sixty researchers: Patricia Andrews (USDA, Forest Service, Missoula), Martin Alexander (Canadian Forestry Service) and Michel Larini (University of Marseille, France), presented the state of the art of research in this field. Both theoretical and empirical approaches were described in detail by the lecturers during their presentations. The field experiments of crown fires, described by M.Alexander, were particularly impressive for the insight that they provided on the behaviour of this relatively unknown fire propagation regime. The shrubland fire research in Australia described by W.Catchpole is setting the standards for similar activities in other parts of the world. P.Andrews presented the latest developments of the Behave fire propagation system, now included in Firesite. M.Larini presented the results of the physical simulation of a two-dimensional fire propagating in a uniform fuelbed, requiring very few empirical parameters.

During this course the participants had the opportunity to visit the Laboratory of Studies on Forest Fires that is situated in Lousã. This Laboratory is administered by the University of Coimbra with the objective of supporting experimental research on physical aspects of forest fires. It contains a large combustion tunnel and a large combustion table that can be inclined at arbitrary angles. Both structures are currently used in the study of wind and slope effects on fire spread.

Also related to the Conference activities, a meeting of around 35 specialists on remote sensing applications to forest fires was held on 21 November 1998. This meeting of the European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories (EARSeL) was promoted and coordinated by Emilio Chuvieco from the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain.

Domingos Xavier Viegas Department of Mechanical Engineering
Faculty of Sciences and Technology
University of Coimbra
ADAI, Apartado 10131
P – 3030 Coimbra Fax: ++351-39-790771
Tel: ++351-39-790732
e-mail: xavier.viegas@mail.dem.uc.pt

IFFN No. 20


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