GFMC DEVELOPMENT OF FIRE MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES AND METHODOLOGIES

Selected Examples of Development of Fire Management Technologies and Methodologies by GFMC and Partners

Sequence: Top down from 2022 to 1977

Editorial note: The following examples represent the work of GFMC and its predecessor institution – the Fire Ecology Research Group of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Freiburg University – with emphasis work in Germany only. R&D work outside Germany is published on the GFMC website. Some photo collages published on the GFMC Germany web post have captions / explanations in German language. All GFMC support to technology development has been carried out on honorary, voluntary basis without any commercial involvement.

The Welte Backpack Tank

Hundred thousands of agricultural and forestry tractors in Europe and around the world are equipped with a standardized three point linkage (or three-point-hitch), a standardized system to attach implements to tractors. They comprise of three movable arms assembled in a triangle or ‘A’ formation, and are controlled by the hydraulic system allowing lifting, lowering and tilting. The low- and high-pressure pumps of the Welte Backpack Tank are powered by three point linkage and discharge water (including option of wetting / foam additives) from water tanks with volumes between 600 and 1300 liters. With the option of having highly maneuverable off-road units operated by foresters, farmers and communal (fire) services, this technology enable local communities if effective and water-saving response to landscape fires, including those burning the interface to villages, farmstead and other residential areas.

Field trials with the Welte Backpack Tank (Welte Tankrucksack) in Sexau, Emmendingen County, Baden-Württemberg State, Germany, March 2022.

Fire Management on Terrain contaminated with Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)

Active and abandoned military training areas in Germany, some of them in use for more than a century, have been subjected to mechanical disturbances as consequence of movements of military vehicles and tanks, and the direct and indirect impacts of artillery shooting and bombing exercises, often associated with wildfires started by explosive ordnance. These training areas provide habitats and refugia for endangered species and open land ecosystems. Abandoned or reduced disturbances by military training have resulted in plant succession towards forest formation, resulting in losses of habitats for endangered species dependent on open-land ecosystems, notably the Calluna vulgaris heathlands. In some areas the desired effects of meanwhile abandoned military activities and wildfires are substituted by targeted grazing, mechanical treatment or prescribed fire. However, within Germany a total area in the magnitude of tentatively 250,000 ha of high-conservation value is contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO). While grazing alone cannot maintain openness in all cases, mechanical treatment and prescribed burning cannot always be considered as complementary measures due to the threat of UXO explosions. 

Starting with the first conceptual plans in 2006, a project was launched in 2009, entitled “Testing and developing methods for heathland management using controlled fire on areas contaminated with ammunition in the Heidehof-Golmberg Nature Reserve (Teltow-Fläming county, Brandenburg State, Germany). The project was implemented between 2010 and 2014. While the core of the project initially focused on the safe use of prescribed fire on sites contaminated with UXO, which are protected and subject to a conservation requirement under EU law, it was foreseeable that the project would also develop technologies and procedures for safely fighting wildfires on UXO-contaminated terrain. From 2012 on, and especially in 2018-2023, the technology was successfully applied in the German Federal States Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Hesse.

Brandenburg is the federal state with the highest proportion of UXO contamination – former military training areas / shooting ranges and combat areas of WW II

Securing safe prescribed burning with the SPOT-55 fire fighting tank (11,000 liters of extinguishing agent, full armor against uncontrolled detonations)

Ignition tank – a converted but still fully armored BMP command tank – with an ATV Drip Torch and a Pyroshot Green Dragon ignition sphere launcher for the safe ignition of controlled fires or suppression firing

Ignition of a prescribed fire (= suppression firing / backfiring) from the armored BMP ignition tank

Monitoring the progress of the fire using drones and tethered balloons (left) and UXO

Mapping the burned areas and handing over the uncovered ammunition to the explosive ordnance disposal service

Project results (in English):

Project website with further references and reports (in German):

In the subsequent section, only the attached .jpg is needed

EuroFire Competency Standards and Training Materials
EuroFire was a two-year project implemented by GFMC and partners between 2006 and December 2008, funded by the EU Leonardo da Vinci program. The project brought together partners with international expertise and experience in wildfire and prescribed fire research, management, and training to develop, evaluate, produce and distribute new European-wide, multi-lingual online training resources.

The EuroFire project researched and reviewed competency-based wildfire and prescribed fire training systems, including best practice examples from Europe and around the world. This research informed the production of competency-based basic training resources, for use in European countries.

The EuroFire training resources have been specifically developed to support firefighting personnel, the land-based sector, sectoral organizations and education, and training institutions.

The EuroFire outputs include competency standards, training modules, illustrations and general guidance on a competency-based training system. Training resources that can be used by industry practitioners to update their knowledge, learn new skills or increase their understanding of basic wildfire and prescribed fire management techniques.

After termination of the active project in 2008, the FMC continued involving partners nin countries / regions to around the world to translate and apply the EuroFire materials for creating a basis of international cross-boundary interoperability in fire management. 15years later, in 2023, the EuroFire materials – originally developed in English language – have been translated for the use in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil (Portuguese), Croatia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Latin America (all Spanish-speaking countries), Malaysia, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Nepal, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam. These 23 language versions are serving, among other, 88 English-speaking countries, 20 Spanish-speaking countries and 29 French-speaking countries.

GFMC Contributions and Support to Earth Observation of Landscape Fires
Since the 1990s, GFMC has supported the development, test, calibration and validation of satellite sensors and photographic Earth Observation from Space Shuttle missions. Instrument tests included sensors for ground-based fire and fire-smoke detection systems.

Through a series of field trials and large forest fire experiments near Freiburg and in Brandenburg State (Germany) in 1994 and in 2001, GFMC supported the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the calibration and validation of satellite sensors, which were launched into orbit with the small satellite BIRD (Bispectral InfraRed Detection) in 2001, and provided data until 2004 that enabled the further development of spaceborne observation instruments. This mission is described in the FireBIRD brochure. © Photos and satellite data: DLR and GFMC.

Automated fire smoke detection systems, which had been developed by DLR, were calibrated and improved during the Brandenburg State (Germany) in August 2001, followed by commercial application in Germany since then. © Photos: DLR and GFMC.

For more information – including cooperation with NASA Space Shuttle missions, see dedicated website:

Firefighting with Foam
In the early 1980s, the predecessor institution of GFMC – the Fire Ecology Research Group – cooperated with the industry towards developing environmental-friendly firefighting foaming agents. A series of fire experiments, generating realistic wildfire situations, revealed the utility of foam application in suppression of wildfires in forests and open-land-ecosystems.

Field research on the development of foam extinguishing agents in Breisach Forestry District (Baden-Württemberg State) and Wense Federal Forestry District (Lower Saxony State) in 1982. The most demanding experiments on the military training range Bergen of the German Federal Army involved use of military combat tanks to create a fire break in a dense middle-aged Scotch Pine stand, which was secured by medium, and low-extension foam, able stopping surface and full-scale crown fires.

Publication of results:

Prescribed Burning Techniques for Application in Industrial Countries of Europe
First studies by the Freiburg Fire Ecology Research Group – predecessor institution of GFMC – on the use of prescribed fire as close-to-nature method of managing forest and open land ecosystems took place in 1977. Objective: Development of methods for using fire to reduce wildfire hazard in pine forests or in the preservation of open-land ecosystems such as dwarf shrub heath ecosystems. First publication in 1977:

Visual impressions of the first prescribed fire set to reduce fuels / wildfire hazard in pine stands: Breisach Forest District near Freiburg, Germany, in 1977.

Application of prescribed fire in the restoration of capercaillie habitats in the Black Forest – see field project highlight of April 2007: https://gfmc.online/feueroekologie/EU-Life-project.html

The first application-oriented research and development trials in the use of prescribed fire to maintain openness and ecosystem properties in cultural vineyard lands in Southwest Germany were conducted in the mid-1990s in Baden-Württemberg State.

Staring in the early 2000s, prescribed burning in conservation and restoration of open-land ecosystems, notably dwarf-shrub heathlands  

Further exemplary related references on the GFMC online repository:

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