Researching the risks and realities of wildfires | 10/20/2017 | Staff
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Internationally renowned expert on wildfires Albert Simeoni, a professor and the interim director of WPI's Fire Protection Engineering department, has been watching developments in Northern California where extreme fires have ravaged more than 200,000 acres, destroying nearly 6,000 structures and claiming more than 40 lives. It's the type of tragedy Simeoni says faculty and students at WPI's state-of-the-art fire lab have been studying to quantify the risks and find ways to help mitigate destruction.

Simeoni, a former firefighter in his native Corsica, returned to WPI this past July as a full professor after spending three years at the University of Edinburgh and in private industry.

Daily - Herd - Wildfires

He recently spoke with The Daily Herd about wildfires.

Herd: What could we be doing to prevent these massive fires from burning out of control, and what guidelines would you offer for fighting them?

Simeoni - Way - Nothing - Fires - Damages

Simeoni: In a very simple way, there is nothing we can do to prevent all fires or all damages. Our firefighters are very good at their job and they have a lot of courage and dedication, but the fires we are seeing in California are so catastrophic that they are simply beyond our firefighting capabilities.

Instead, something very important we have to do—all of us—is to learn how to live with fires. We can mitigate some of the impact on human lives and on infrastructures and the environment, but it's unrealistic to think that we will be able to stop all fires and to bring them under control.

Research - Responders - Fire—how - Area - Tactics

Our research can help the first responders with understanding what happened in a fire—how it spread in a particular area, for example—so they can improve their tactics as to how they approach future fires. And importantly, we can work to make our structures and infrastructure more resilient to fire.

One problem with wildfires is that we, as a society, increase...
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