FSRI’s Wildland Urban Interface Advisory Committee holds an annual meeting in Arcadia, CA.
Wildland Urban Interface Advisory Committee Holds Annual Meeting in Arcadia, CA

The Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes, established the Wildland Urban Interface Advisory Committee (WAC) in 2023 to provide direction to the specialized wildland urban interface (WUI) research field. Each year, the WAC meets in person at a location that has been affected by wildfires with the objective to learn how FSRI’s research can help improve community efforts to address wildfire resilience in the built environment. This spring, the WAC convened at the Angeles National Forest (ANF) headquarters in Arcadia, CA to engage with local fire chiefs who led prevention and first responder efforts during the 2020 Bobcat Fire.

Exploring WUI communities affected by the Bobcat Fire

To kick off the two-day meeting, the WAC—joined by invited guests involved in WUI-related research and activities—met with the local fire chiefs to learn more about the timeline and background of the Bobcat Fire. The group reviewed objectives for the day before departing on a guided tour of different WUI neighborhoods adjacent to ANF and viewpoints within the forest.

During the tour, the fire chiefs highlighted challenges faced by the County of Los Angeles Fire Department, City of Monrovia, and ANF during initial attack and throughout the extended attack period. The group also had the opportunity to learn about the coordinated multi-agency structure defense and perimeter control efforts of the many agencies that responded. Much of the discussion focused on connecting the science of building-to-building fire spread to the community itself.

Members of FSRI’s Wildland Urban Interface Advisory Committee learn more about the prevention tactics performed by the U.S. Forest Service during the 2020 Bobcat Fire.
U.S. Forest Service Division Chief Oscar Vargas discusses suppression tactics performed during the 2020 Bobcat Fire with members of FSRI’s WAC

The WAC also visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s San Dimas Technology & Development Center (SDTDC). During this visit, the group toured the facility and engaged in discussions with the SDTDC staff on how the center tests and helps standardize fire equipment used by the Forest Service. The SDTDC staff also presented research projects and findings to provide the WAC with the breadth of the facility’s focus areas.

FSRI’s Wildland Urban Interface Advisory Committee discusses firebrand generator technology with San Dimas Technology & Development Center staff during a tour of the facility.
FSRI’s WAC discusses firebrand generator technology with SDTDC staff during a tour of the facility.

Discussing gaps in WUI research

The WAC closed out the two-day meeting with a group discussion led by FSRI research program manager Derek Alkonis. FSRI’s research team provided updates related to various projects in the areas of building-to-building fire spread, the Maui wildfires analysis, firebrand ignition of building materials, battery safety, and the National Emergency Response Information System (NERIS). Following the presentations, WAC members shared updates from their respective organizations and identified areas where FSRI’s current and future research may not only address their own needs but also gaps in the WUI research field. 

Through this discussion, FSRI identified a few ways its research may better address existing needs:

  • Expand experimental capabilities to study the effects of wind on structure-to-structure fire spread.
  • Provide guidance for developing and implementing wildfire resilience programs.
  • Explore cost-benefit analysis on window protection methods to help improve public education efforts related to home hardening projects.

Following the meeting, FSRI will take these suggestions and review how to address gaps in its current and planned research. The WAC will reconvene virtually later this year to provide updates on research plans and findings.