Honors Gallery

Development and application of the wildland fire decision support system

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2013

Award Type:



Federal, state, tribal, and local agencies and organizations responsible for wildland fire management in the U.S. have had increasing difficulty with larger and larger wildfires, associated escalations in suppression costs, firefighter exposure, and a decline in program efficiency.

Agency policy requires a decision documentation process to record wildfire decisions, articulate rationale, and document outcomes. Over the past 10 years, three distinct reporting and management systems emerged, resulting in inefficiency, redundancy, confusion, and low-quality results.

In 2007, a new system to replace the three processes was developed—the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS). It is a scalable system that incorporates economic principles, terrain, vegetation types, weather information, fire behavior modeling, and smoke dispersal modeling. The system helps fire managers create and publish a decision consistent with local land and resource management plans. It provides a foundation for decision documentation and access to decision support analysis tools and facilitates long-term planning.

In 2007, a new system to replace the three processes was developed—the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS).

The Wildland Fire Management Research, Development, and Application Program (WFM RD&A) was established to sponsor and guide the development and application of WFDSS. WFM RD&A staff members worked closely with scientists from multiple agencies to consolidate previously separate fire management processes, fire modeling systems, data, and economic principles. Software was developed through a contract with a private company. The technology was made available to users via a website, with training and orientation delivered through webinars, video conferences, face-to-face presentation, and a comprehensive online help component.

Authorized WFDSS users require only an internet connection and a log-on for access. It allows cross-jurisdictional use, and supports multiple approvers in virtual environments. Thousands of interagency partners are currently using the system; since its initial delivery, over 40,000 wildfires in the United States have been entered into the system and the decisions recorded.