Grant funds computer simulation table; Depicts wildfire terrain in 3D for study

Klamath Community College’s (KCC) Public Safety Regional Training Center has taken its wildland firefighting strategy to a whole new level with the addition of a computer simulation table.

Ancient civilizations used ways to replicate terrain to plan battles, determine where to construct buildings or chart routes across treacherous lands. Today, thanks to a generous grant from Green Diamond Resource Company, KCC students have the benefit of a computer-generated model to assist them.

The Public Safety Regional Training Center’s new simtable will revolutionize logistical training for firefighting, and many other disasters and emergencies.

“Consistent with Green Diamond’s commitment to the communities where we work and live, we are proud to support educational opportunities like KCC’s that promote and protect jobs in the forest products industry,” said Robert Douglas, Timber Resource Analyst at Green Diamond’s Oregon operations.

“We greatly appreciate the focus KCC has put on wildfire prevention and suppression with the newly established wildland fire program. We hope our donation will help our communities be more wildfire-resistant and resilient,” he said.

Green Diamond is a sixth-generation, family-owned forest products company that owns and manages working forests in nine states throughout the western and southern U.S.

Preston Hundley, KCC’s Wildland Fire Program Coordinator, and Charles Massie, the college’s Vice President of External Programs, said the Green Diamond grant will help teach tactics for fighting wildfires.

Klamath Community College has a new simtable, an interactive computer-generated view of forested terrain, such as Crater Lake above, that can be used to predict fire behavior and help plan for wildfire-fighting efforts and evacuations. (Photo courtesy of Klamath Community College)

The computer simulator models a flat surface in a 6- by 10-foot box with a transparent topographical map overlay shown from a simtable projector. Any mapped area can be shaped into a 3-D replica of the site to give firefighters a better lay of the land with exacting detail.

“We can recreate Crater Lake and the surrounding mountains,” Hundley said as he worked the simulator to match the topography. This includes the lake, rivers and streams, and timbered acreage to demonstrate where a wildfire may travel, given the weather conditions. Then, we can study a plan of attack.”

Most importantly, these maps can help establish the quickest evacuation routes for residents, given the density of the housing and the amount of traffic.

Hundley added that the modeling also shows the need for homeowners to create a defensible space around their homes so they are less likely to catch fire. “This is one more step in enabling the KCC program to become a regional firefighting training center,” Hundley said. He said that after wildfires, teams can do debriefings on how the fire or other disaster was fought and what they could do better.

“Not only can it aid firefighting efforts, but it can chart natural disasters such as floods, or a toxic chemical spill from a nearby railyard, or downed powerlines. Plumes of smoke are included in the overlay, allowing one to see what areas may be affected,” Hundley said. “As more homes are built in the in the wildland-urban interface, or homes on the edge of the forests and on hillsides that can be in the direct line of fire, the hope is to have the community better understand the need for defensible space, evacuation routes and overall emergency preparedness.”