Fire officers from Northumberland complete innovative wildfire training project and look towards a virtual reality future

Officers from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service attended the final conference as part of a European wide wildfire training project, IGNIS, held in France. 

The conference marked the conclusion of the IGNIS (Initiative for Global Management of big fires through Simulation) project, co-financed by the European Commission through the Civil Protection Financial Instrument. 

IGNIS was a 2 year project involving four European partners who designed and developed a wildfire simulation tool to train fire officers across Europe in the command and control of large and destructive wildfires. 

The IGNIS simulation tool consists of a network of computers that run advanced gaming-style software which present officers with a realistic virtual environment that is as close to real life conditions as possible. The simulation tool shows commanders what they would see at a wildfire incident and they need to use knowledge, skills and experience to gather and process information to make informed decisions on how to safely and effectively command the incident.

Each of the four partners from across Europe designed and developed different complex wildfire scenarios designed to test commanders’ abilities to safely and effectively respond to changes that may occur during the course of a wildfire incident, such as, changes in rate and direction of fire spread. 

Conference delegates were also introduced to members of the independent advisory board, which was made up of wildfire and incident command experts from Belgium, Croatia, France, Denmark, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The advisory board was responsible for reviewing the work of the IGNIS partners and for providing advice, guidance and external quality assurance.  

During the closure of the final conference, lead officers from all four partner agencies and one organisation represented on the independent advisory board signed a Statement of Intent to continue working together as a partnership over the next year to further develop and enhance simulation training for wildfire incidents. 

Paul Hedley, Chief Fire Officer, Northumberland County Council, said: “The IGNIS project has been an extremely ambitious project and some major advances have been made over a relatively short period of time. 

“Working with partners across Europe has allowed us to develop a fantastic training tool that allows officers to train in wildfire management in a realistic, real-time environment.

“Following the success of the development of IGNIS, the partners were also discussing further exchanges and projects to help continue the valuable exchange of knowledge and experience following that which has taken place during the last two years.”

Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, cabinet member with responsibility for the fire and rescue service said: “Having the ability to train for wildfire incidents is invaluable to our Fire and Rescue Service especially as a rural fire service where wildfires are a potential risk. 

“ I am very proud of the work carried out by NFRS within this project and we can use this experience and knowledge to take us forward and continue to work together with colleagues across Europe.”
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