International Conference on Modelling, Monitoring and Management of Forest Fires

pcr2.jpg17 - 19 September 2008
Toledo, Spain


ForestFires08.jpgThe 1st International Conference on Forest Fires: Modelling, Monitoring and Management was held recently in Toledo, organised by the University of Castilla La-Mancha (UCLM) and the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) as part of one of their joint activities under the existing link agreement between the two institutions.

The Chairmen of the Conference were Professor Jorge de las Heras from UCLM and Professor Carlos A Brebbia, Director of WIT, with the collaboration of Professor D Viega, University of Coimbra and Professor V Leone of the University of Basilicata.

Forest Fires are very complex phenomena which can rapidly devastate large areas, as demonstrated by many such events.  There is also widespread awareness that the risk may increase as a result of climate change.

Forest Fires analysis and mitigation requires the development of computer codes that can take into consideration a large number of different parameters.  This Conference will require the latest research and applications of available computer tools to analyse and predict the spread of forest fires in an attempt to prevent or reduce major loss of life and property, as well as damage to the environment.

At present, there is insufficient knowledge of the behaviour of fires and how they propagate.  This lack of appropriate studies makes these phenomena very difficult to control and is a major obstacle to the development of a reliable decision support system.  Public concern in this topic is increasing as uncontrolled fires may lead to major ecological disasters and negative economic and health implications for the region.

The Conference addressed all aspects of forest fires, from fire propagation in different scenarios to the optimum strategies for fire fighting.  It also covered issues related to economic, ecological, social and health effects.

 Opening Address

fires1.jpgThe Conference was opened by Professor Carlos A. Brebbia, Director of WIT, who explained the importance of the meeting in terms of the objectives of his Institute, whose aim is to act as a centre for transfer of knowledge between academia, research institutions and industry.  The conference programme is an important part of these activities which complement the research taking part at the WIT Campus in Southern England’s New Forest.

WIT, Professor Brebbia said, has formal link agreements with many institutions around the world, including the University of Castilla La-Mancha.  The Conference is held under the terms of that agreement and reflects the common research interests of both institutions.  New interest in Forest Fires has arisen in the UK, driven by the perceived climate changes to take place in the next few years.  The New Forest is an area which would be affected by those changes.

Professor Brebbia ended by thanking the University authorities for allowing the conference the use of such magnificent rooms.  The Meeting took place in one of the historical buildings used by the University in Toledo.  It was called Peter the Master convent, originally the property of the Dominican order, famous for their prominent role in the Inquisition.  The opening ceremony took place in the old church, still richly adorned and in an excellent state of decoration.  Equally impressive was the room in which all the other sessions were held, including the so called ‘small theatre’ (teatrillo) which was originally the refectory, a room famous for its beautiful tiles.  The refreshment breaks were taken in one of the main patio areas, surrounded by cloisters and balconies dating from the XIV Century.  The Conference environment was representative of the whole city of Toledo, a town renowned for its rich history and as a crossroads of cultures and civilisations.

Professor Jorge de las Heras, Co-Chairman of the Conference, welcomed the delegates in the name of UCLM and mentioned that the University, albeit relatively new, now has 30,000 students spread over five campuses in the region.  The Albacete Campus, where he is based, is deeply committed to research on Forestry and in particular, Forest Fires.

 Conference Sessions

The Conference covered several important sessions as follows:
  • Computational methods and experiments
  • Decision support systems
  • Risk and vulnerability assessment
  • Monitoring systems
  • Environmental impact
  • Fire mitigation models
  • Fire and peat fire danger rating
  • Case studies

 Special Sessions

Two special sessions were organised on topics of current interest:

“Laboratory and field experiments to assess fire propagation model” by Prof JMC Mendes-Lopes, Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon, which contained the following papers:

  • “Methodology for measuring geometrical and thermal characteristics of flames in laboratory forest fires”
  • “Measurement of physical parameters of forest fires by infrared imaging methods”
  • “Assessing fire propagation empirical models in shrub fuel complexes using wind tunnel data”
  • “Mutual influence between surface fire propagation and a tree trunk”

The other special session was on “Wildfire Modelling” organised by D. Morvan, UNINECA, France.  It contained the following papers:

  • “Physical phenomena in wildfire modelling”
  • “Characterizing and modelling the spatial patterns of wildfire ignitions in Portugal: fire initiation and resulting burned area”
  • “Assessment of the plume theory predictions of crown scorch or crown fire initiation using transport models”
  • “Impacts of fuel-break structure on fire behaviour simulated with FIRETEC”
  • “Spotting ignition of fuel beds by firebrands”


 Invited Presentations

In addition to the regular papers and special sessions, a number of invited presentations were scheduled, to enhance the meeting, as follows:

  • “Combustion modelling for forest fire: from detailed to skeletal and global models” by PA Santoni, University of Corse, France
  • “Firecast system – previsional fire danger index computation system for alpine regions” by L Corgnati, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
  • “Forest fire danger forecasting in Poland” by J Piwnicki, Forest Fire Protection Laboratory, Poland
  • “Developing a live fuel moisture model for moorland fire danger rating” by M Davies, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • “Near-real-time forest fires monitoring system: case study with a manned aerial vehicle within the OSIRIS project” by I Reusen, VITO NV, Belgium
  • “Measuring the effectiveness of Poland’s fire monitoring system” by B Ubysz, Forest Fire Protection Department, Poland
  • “Acoustic characterization of a forest fire event”, by D X Viegas, University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • “Aleppo pine regeneration after fire along an aridity gradient” by J de las Heras, University of Castilla La-Mancha, Spain
  • “An operational dropping model towards efficient aerial firefighting” by A Miranda, University of Aveiro, Portugal
  • “On the two ways for the computing of the fire front positions and the rate of spread” by K Chetehouna, Laboratory of Energy, Explosives and Structures, France


 International Scientific Advisory Committee

A meeting of the International Scientific Advisory Committee took place over lunch to discuss how the Conference was proceeding and the type of topics that will be put forward when the Conference is reconvened.  The Committee were happy with the outcome of this first meeting but thought that it was necessary to focus on a series of well defined topics.  The Chairmen will discuss ways in which to improve the Conference in the future.

 Conference Banquet

fires2.jpgThe delegates were offered a complimentary lunch each day to facilitate the development of better contacts.  In addition, a cocktail party was arranged on the first day of the meeting in the evening, held in one of the historical parts of the University building.

The conference banquet took place in a building located at the top of a hill in the neighbourhood of Toledo from which the surrounding countryside could be better appreciated.  The banquet consisted of a series of local specialities accompanied by excellent Castillian wines.  A recital, consisting of medieval compositions played on an old instrument, a viola with keys, took place after dinner.  The musician, Ana Alcaide, included some saphardi pieces which reflect the Jewish culture for which Toledo was famous until the end of the XV Century.

The Conference was highly successful in terms of the quality of the presentations and will be reconvened in the near future.

 Publication of Papers

The proceedings of Forest Fires: Modelling, Monitoring and Management of Forest Fires, 400pp (ISBN: 1-84564-141-2) are available in hard back from WIT Press priced at £125/US$250/€187.50. Orders can be placed by telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223, fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the WIT Press web site at

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online in the WIT eLibrary as volume 119 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at