Assessing meteorological data availability for prescribed burning as a decision support tool in fire prevention

18:00 Tuesday 28 May




Susana Dias (Portugal) 1; Conceição Colaço (Portugal) 1; Leónia Nunes (Portugal) 2,3; Francisco Rego (Portugal) 4

1 - Centre for Applied Ecology Prof. Baeta Neves (CEABN-InBIO), School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon; 2 - Centre for Applied Ecology Prof. Baeta Neves (CEABN-InBIO), School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon and; 3 - Centre of the Research and Technology of Agro-Environmental and Biological Science (CITAB), University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD); 4 - Centre for Applied Ecology Prof. Baeta Neves (CEABN-InBIO), School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon

Wildfires are a major concern for the Mediterranean region with impacts on several society sectors including health and life safety, economic and environmental damages. For instance, in Portugal wildfires resulted in 112 fatalities in 2017 and an average of 250 million euros losses per year. Wildfire risk reduction is achievable by reducing fuel (vegetation) loads in specific areas thus leading to decreases in wildfire intensity, severity and velocity. Prescribed burning is one of the most efficient and cheapest way to reduce fuel but it requires, depending on the vegetation type, a specific meteorological window of opportunity.

This study, developed within the EU project BRIGAID, aims to assess if the online available meteorological data fulfils the needs of the prescribed burning practitioners, in order to use this fire prevention technique in an efficient and safe way. An inquiry was sent by e-mail to a group of 104 Portuguese technicians having a valid certification to use prescribed burning (hereafter PBt). Ten questions focused on the sources of meteorological information used for schedule their activities (e.g. available information; user friendly level; usefulness and adequacy of the forecast to decide the onset of the activity; reliability of the forecast for the local/region of interest). Around 50 replies were received and analysed with qualitative (content analysis) and quantitative (frequencies) methods.

On the seven meteorological websites consulted by the PBt to gather weather information as a tool of decision support, only three are consensually used by more than 50% of the respondents. All seven platforms receives a good or fair evaluation regarding information availability and the presence of a user-friendly interface, although only three are well scored for the utility of the information to support the decision of when to burn. The reliability of the meteorological data in the PBt specific region is the characteristic that receives the lower score in general with only two of the websites (used by less than 31% of the PBt) achieving a good score. Nevertheless, an average of 3 websites are consulted by each technician prior to any decision.

The available websites fulfil, in general, the needs of meteorological data for most (c.a. 80%) of the respondents. However, improvements on meteorological data at regional/ local scale and the inclusion of more integrated meteorological/vegetation variables are considered necessary to facilitate the work of prescribed burning technicians and forest management.