Information Technology

Modern technology offers exciting new ways to gather and share information about wildland fires. Office of Wildland Fire staff support the consolidation and development of technology that puts “the right information in the right hands at the right time.”

A dispatcher speaks into a microphone while sitting in front of a bank of computer monitors

A dispatcher at the Boise Interagency Dispatch Center. Dispatchers use a number of applications to document and share information about wildfires. (DOI/Neal Herbert)


Quick Facts

6,300: number of people using FireNet (an interagency collaboration tool)
276: number of operational systems reading/obtaining data through IRWIN
2,300: number of active users on the Wildland Fire Learning Portal
18: number of organizations using the Wildland Fire Learning Portal


History

In the past, the development of new technology often focused on the needs of small groups of people without recognizing the potential to serve wider audiences. Dozens of institutions play a role in managing wildland fire. A lack of enterprise planning led to a proliferation of systems used to track data like where a fire started, its size, and how many people had been assigned to it. A lot of money was spent designing and supporting systems that frequently couldn’t talk to one another. This led to inconsistencies in fire reporting and to the duplication of effort: perhaps most keenly felt by dispatchers forced to hand enter GPS coordinates into 26 different systems. A single transposed number or misplaced decimal (in a 30-character string) can locate a fire in a different county or state. Not all systems used the same data format (GPS info comes in different shapes and sizes), further complicating the sharing of key information as fire managers planned their response to an incident.

In 2011 the National Wildland Fire Enterprise Architecture Blueprint directed the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service to jointly develop a shared vision and strategy for investment in wildland fire technology. Staff in the Office of Wildland Fire collaborate with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to lead this effort, now known as the Wildland Fire Information and Technology Program (WFIT).

What We Do

The WFIT team works with leadership, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders to understand how technology can best serve the entire wildland fire community (not just one agency or department). By taking a holistic view of the business of wildland fire (especially its processes and strategies), WFIT can provide the technology fire managers need to do their jobs independent of their agency affiliation or location.

When existing systems reach the end of their life cycle or new technology needs emerge, WFIT team members provide analysis as well as oversight of project conception, approval, budget, management, operations, and maintenance. They establish investment priorities and implement investment decisions. They search for ways to increase efficiency by integrating systems and eliminating single-purpose applications. They also establish, review, and enforce data standards across all applications.

WFIT bases their analysis and development of technology on the following principles:

  • We recognize that business processes and operations drive changes to information systems and technology infrastructure.
  • We preserve and leverage information systems and technology assets for as long as they deliver net business value over the benefits of replacement.
  • We provide the data, tools, and technologies needed to improve and strengthen the ability to make sound and timely strategic and tactical wildland fire management decisions.
  • We increase the effectiveness and efficiency of wildland fire programs by reengineering processes and activities.
  • We encourage and leverage innovation.

Applications

The WFIT program oversees an incredible range of applications related to wildland fire. These applications serve purposes like warehouse inventory control, planning for prescribed fires, dispatch, managing/sharing incident information, tracking firefighter qualifications, and more. The list below includes a few of the major applications currently in use and in development. View a more complete list of applications on the WFIT website.

In Use

FireNet: an interagency communication and collaboration environment that can be used by Federal and non-Federal operators across the spectrum of wildland fire operations.

Interagency Fire Occurrence Reporting Modules (InFORM): provides a single, nationwide system of record for both federal and state agencies to report wildfires. InFORM will eliminate redundant data entry, improve the quality and completeness of fire data, and make it easier to access.

Interagency Fuel Treatment Decisions Support System (IFTDSS): makes fuel treatment analysis and management more efficient through the integration of fire models using the adaptive management cyle.

Interagency Resource Ordering Capability (IROC): enables fire managers to request fire personnel and equipment and track where they’re located. This cloud-based system replaced the Resource Ordering and Status System (ROSS) and provides a higher level of integration with other major applications for interagency dispatch center operations.

Integrated Reporting of Wildland Fire Information (IRWIN): facilitates the exchange of data between many existing wildland fire applications in a way that reduces redundant data entry and improves data consistency, accuracy, and availability. The latest version of IRWIN focused on the integration of resource data (i.e. the location/status of aircraft, engines, and crews). This integration included applications like IROC (see above), several computer-aided dispatch systems, both qualification systems, and “Roll Call,” a new IRWIN-created tool used to manage the status of tactical resources. This update assists with decision making by allowing fire managers to see resource commitment levels across agency boundaries.

Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools Project (LANDFIRE): provides agency leaders, managers and operators with a common “all-lands” data set of vegetation and wildland fire/fuels information for landscape assessment and resource management planning and analysis.

National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System (NFPORS): allows fire managers to plan, track, and report fuel treatments and other activities across the country.

WildCAD: computer-aided dispatch system used by wildland fire agencies across the country that streamlines the process of ordering firefighters and equipment to new fires.

Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS): helps fire managers make and record their key wildfire management decisions by providing critical data about an area, fire modeling tools, and risk analysis.

Wildland Fire Learning Portal: a centralized platform for online training that supports the education and training needs of the entire wildland fire community.

In Development

Fire Modeling Services Framework (FMSF): This Application Programming Interface (API) for machine-to-machine and system-to-system connections will provide wildland fire models and tools for use within wildland fire applications, such Interagency Fuel Treatment Decisions Support System, Wildland Fire Decision Support System, and others. The API will provide tools related to fire behavior flame lengths, rates of spread, fire progression, and more. The FMSF will provide users with improved performance, consistent data, and faster analysis. In addition, it will reduce IT development and maintenance needs by hosting the tools in a central location instead of maintaining a separate version within each system.

Testing options for remote connectivity: Lack of wireless service in remote locations creates challenges for fire managers trying to gather and share timely information about wildfires and personnel. DOI is testing options for remote connectivity using FirstNet. FirstNet is an independent authority authorized by Congress in 2012 to develop, build, and operate a nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety.


 

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