Date(s) - 12/09/2023
5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Hazards Forum in-person event at the Institution of Civil Engineers, One Great George Street, Westminster, London, UK
Wildfire is a complex scenario with many interlinking factors, including human behaviour and environmental factors. It can be considered a ‘semi-natural hazard’ where the conditions necessary for a fire to become established are largely environmentally determined, but the initial spark is often the result of inadvertent or deliberate human action.
Fire services anticipate that the frequency and intensity of wildfires are likely to increase given the predictions for climate change in the UK. They report an upwards trend in recent years and more frequent spells of intense wildfire activity such as in 2018. Responding to wildfires during a period of prolonged drought can be very challenging further compounding problems such as access and the extent of the fire.
This Hazards Forum event will consider the modelling and forecasting, implications for infrastructure and built environments and the challenges of emergency response with expert input from a range of specialists.
This Hazards Forum event will bring together expert speakers from a variety of diverse fields which will be key in considering these challenges.
Professor Guillermo Rein, Professor of Fire Science, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London
Guillermo is Professor of Fire Science at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Imperial College London and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Fire Technology.
His research is centred on heat transfer, combustion and fire. The purpose of his work is to reduce the worldwide burden of accidental fires and protect people, their property, and the environment. Over the last 15 years he is best known for research in three areas: 1) how polymers and wood ignite so we can avoid fires from starting; 2) how engineers can design better structures that resist fire; and 3) how wildfires spread and how to fight them.
He leads the research group Imperial Hazelab, which currently counts with 3 postdocs and 12 PhD students. The group is funded by a range of sponsors, most notably Arup, BASF, EPSRC, and the European Research Council (2015 Consolidator Grant).
Presentation: “Protecting Communities and the Environment from Wildfires: Past, Present and the way forward”
Wildfires are a significant safety risk in many regions of the world, and specially to rural communities. But wildfires also threaten suburban and urban areas, as seen in the record number of wildfires in London of 19 July 2022 during a heatwave. Large wildfires are associated with severe consequences including loss of live and property, damage to infrastructure, social disruption, and evacuations. These challenges are likely to increase worldwide and become more complex as the climate changes. This talk provides an overview of wildfires, their anatomy, historical trends, and what engineers can do to mitigate their negative effects.O
Megan Pearce, Consultant in Sustainability and Environmental Assurance, Frazer-Nash
Megan Pearce is a Consultant in the Sustainability and Environmental Assurance team at Frazer-Nash. Megan’s expertise is in climate risk and resilience, underpinned by a background in science and consultancy in the private and public sector. She has supported organisations in the energy, water, transport, infrastructure, nuclear and heritage industries to understand the risks associated with physical hazards, and how these may change in future scenarios.
Presentation: “Wildfires: The cascading risks for industry”
What are the impacts of wildfire on industry? Where do risks arise and how could they change in the future? Wildfires are multi-faceted in their origin, persistence, and influence. This presentation will explore wildfires from the perspective of industry exposure and resilience to cascading risks.
Rob Stacey, Wildfire Team Leader and Project Officer, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service
Rob joined NFRS in 2007 and shortly afterwards completed his PhD in Geography at Swansea University. Rob has been working on wildfire activities within Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) since 2009 and is currently responsible for managing the service’s wildfire capability and coordinating the Service’s wildfire training development and delivery. He also coordinates a range of other wildfire projects.
In his role as a National Wildfire Tactical Advisor (NWTA) and NFRS Wildfire Support Officer, Rob attends large wildfire incidents to provide specialist tactical advice to Incident Commanders and their teams. Rob also currently leads on the development and delivery of the initial training for all NWTAs and is one of the wildfire training leads within the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Wildfire Group.
From 2015 to 2016, Rob was seconded to the UK Fire and Rescue Service’s National Operational Guidance Programme (NOGP) as the Team Leader responsible for coordinating the development of national guidance for wildfires. This guidance is used today by all UK Fire and Rescue Services.
In 2019, Rob led a team of wildfire specialists in conducting a peer review of the wildfire capability of another UK FRS. This was the first comprehensive peer review of a UK FRS’s wildfire capability. Since then, Rob and his team have helped other FRS in the UK to develop their knowledge and skills with regards to wildfires by sharing good practice and delivering specialist wildfire training.
Rob works with a wide range of partners across numerous sectors to help raise awareness of wildfire issues, to share good practice and to help develop solutions to wildfire problems. He is the current Secretary of the England and Wales Wildfire Forum, a multiagency group established to address wildfire issues in England and Wales. Rob is also the secretary of the Northumberland Wildfire Group, a multiagency group established in 2005 which works to prevent, prepare and respond to wildfires in the County of Northumberland.
Presentation: “UK Fire Rescue Service response to the increasing risk of wildfires”
Wildfires often result in sustained and prolonged operations by UK fire and rescue services and other partner agencies.
Wildfires are often complex incidents that need to be suppressed using specialist equipment, tools, and vehicles. They also need to be tackled safely and effectively using specialist advice and assistance from wildfire specialists, such as national wildfire tactical advisors.
Most wildfires in the UK start as a result of human activity and, therefore, many of our current wildfires are avoidable. We know some wildfires are started by people who are unaware of the risks associated with fire, which means educating individuals, organisations, and communities as a whole about these risks can go a long way to forging an understanding of how these behaviours contribute to the problem, and how modifying them forms part of the solution.
But increasing education and raising awareness is just one solution and it is not enough on its own to address the multi-faceted problems associated with wildfires. Wildfire issues require a multi-sector collaborative approach to prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Wildfires are a shared problem for society – and they require us all to work together to develop shared solutions.
About the event
Registration, tea and coffee is available from 1730, and lectures will commence at 1800. The event will conclude with a networking drinks reception at 2000.
1800-1805: Welcome and Introductions – Alex Carroll, Chair
1805-1825: Wildfires: The cascading risks for industry – Megan Pearce, Consultant in Sustainability and Environmental Assurance, Frazer-Nash
1825-1845: Protecting Communities and the Environment from Wildfires: Past, Present and the way forward – Professor Guillermo Rein – Professor of Fire Science, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London
1845-1905: UK Fire Rescue Service response to the increasing risk of wildfires – Rob Stacey, Wildfire Team Leader and Project Officer, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service
1905-2000: Questions and Answers
2000: Networking drinks reception
To book your place at our event, please visit the ICE website here.