Obstacles to outdoor testing environments with partners?

For our Proposed Prize (click “show” below), we are proposing finding a testing partner that would allow us to ignite fires in an outdoor environment.

**Proposed Prize (click “show” to view):
**[spoiler]Wildfire XPRIZE - Rapid, precise and autonomous detection and suppression of wildfires to prevent the loss of life and assets

The Winning Team will autonomously detect and extinguish a spreading wildfire in a large, controlled area in 10 minutes or less.

**The prize design:
** Each finalist team will be assigned a 1,000 km2 (20X20 mile) grid. On test day, in that grid, XPRIZE will create several small, decoy stationary fires and one hazardous target fire. Once the fire is moving, or reaches 2 meters in diameter, the team will have 10 minutes to autonomously extinguish the target fire and any spot fires, while leaving the decoy fires untouched.[/spoiler]

We understand there are problems with variability and replicability in testing outdoors, but for the competition we are hoping to replicate real world conditions and the inherent uncertainty and unpredictability involved in fighting fires.

Is this approach justifiable? Why or why not? Do you have any suggestions?

Share any thoughts, experiences, ideas, or examples you might have!

We are aware of the inherent variability in testing in outdoor conditions, but our testing philosophy is to replicate the inherent variability and uncertainty in fighting fires in the real world.

There are cases of large tracks of remote wild lands under the management of government agencies where access is already effectively restricted to the public. I’m thinking now of military lands, but there might be other cases. If permissions could be obtained, these lands might be useful for testing real wildfires in higher safety conditions (typically remote, no public on the ground risk, opportunity to have large firefighting capabilities standing by in case a ‘small’ fire starts to get away). Plus testing could happen in a low risk season of the year.

One case was the Swedish putting out a natural wildfire on military lands by exploding a bomb on it as a kind of test. I’m not advocating bombs be used for this - just that the kind of land lent itself to a test of a fire suppression approach that could not be done anywhere else. See: A Swedish Air Force Gripen Fighter Jet Just Literally Bombed A Forest Fire

Hi @cedwards , thanks so much for the suggestion, very interesting approach!

There are a variety of locations that support prescribed burns, military bases included. Many experiments have been run out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. One issue is that running these fires safely (so they don’t go out of control) is very dependent on weather, so if there is a fixed date for the contest you may be forced to reschedule many times. Some of the largest indoor laboratory facilities with large hoods are located at FM Global (MA), NIST (MD), Underwriters Laboratories (IL) and the ATF Fire Lab (MD). None of these have a wind tunnel, which a common component in wildfires. IBHS in South Carolina has a large wind tunnel but cannot maintain a large fire for long, but it is possible some workaround could be found. I am happy to facilitate connections with any of these locations. Wind is probably the most essential component governing fire behavior, so some control is necessary.

Would you consider allowing drawings/diagrams/photos to be presented? The nature of this challenge might well benefit from this.

Might there also be a need for testing in different conditions, e.g. dense forest (restricts width of ground based devices), land on a steep slope, land that is difficult to access (fence, swamp, river), etc.

Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego has a wide variety of landscape & already has trouble dealing with wildfires. If interested in making a contact I may have someone that could help with that.

@pzazzday Pendelton is a good location for scrub/chaparral fuels but you might want to check if they need clearance from CA air quality management for prescribed fires. Otherwise they have a lot of resources onsite, however prescribed fires haven’t traditionally been run there.

Hi all, thanks for all of your invaluable feedback on the proposed prize design! A few comments to some general themes that have come up here:

  1. Our current thinking is that we DO need to test in “extreme” conditions, as most fires (we’ve read about 97%) are actually already suppressed before doing significant damage. Thus, really this prize is about increasing rapid detection and suppression to cover the 3% of fires that aren’t put out quickly enough–and that 3% seems to happen overwhelmingly in extreme conditions with respect to wind, humidity, etc.

  2. Another interesting point that’s come up here is the issue of embers spreading and causing more fires (spotting). We’ve also come across this in our research and definitely seems like a significant issue. Our current thinking, based on some conversations we’ve had with practitioners in the field, is that if we can put the fire out extremely quickly, we might be able to prevent embers from spreading.

  3. Speaking of, we have a new discussion thread specifically how long we should give teams in testing once the fire crosses the threshold into “dangerous, must extinguish” territory. Click here to participate!

I suggest having the XPrize admin folks contact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, a bureau of the Dept. of the Interior) to help identify lands (western state forested lands in particular) that could be possible candidates for an XPrize challenge fire suppression test site. The BLM routinely ‘leases’ land to extraction industries (which include timber companies)…so why not assist XPrize in finding a test sight that is intended to preserve usable* forest land/timber?

*not that forest land needs to be ‘used’ for anything other than the ecosystem services that it readily supplies in its natural state…but, you know, Capitalism.

Paper that describes setting up a forest fire suppression test, including crown fire:
Interaction of Shock Waves with Tree Crowns and the Front of Crown Forest Fires

Thanks so much @marz62 for the suggestion of contacting BLM and @cedwards for the paper! Both very helpful!

Just received a patent allowance. Drone to fight fire without use water or chemical.
see www.RoboticVectorControl.com New concept to fight wildland fire.