Wildfire Simulation Technology – Part 1

These days, with fire departments hampered by tight budgets, training (particularly large-scale exercises) may get cut in order to staff enough personnel. However, the effectiveness of computer-based simulations has begun to catch up with the...


Fire Studio provides competitively priced effective training without requiring a technical degree or programming knowledge. It is designed to develop better decision-making skills, and to ultimately improve incident outcome and reduce firefighter injuries and death.

Who uses Fire Studio so far? “Fire departments, academies, industrial facilities, the military, and other government agencies from around the world are currently using Fire Studio for professional training,” said Merritt.

As far as pricing is concerned, the Player Edition of Fire Studio 5, which will allow the user to run pre-made scenarios, is only $230, but if you want to create your own scenarios, you need to step up to the Instructor Edition, which runs $895 a copy. To operate a multi-player versions with multiple computers participating, you would also need to purchase the Commlink Network Control Module for $1,775, and for departments that want to purchase a full multi-player system, prices range from $3,231 up to $15,740, depending on the number of computers involved.

For more information on Fire Studio and Digital Combustion, visit www.digitalcombustion.com.

StageIT

Action Training Systems (ATS), located in Poulsbo, WA, has been around since 1988, when they began producing quality multimedia productions on VHS tapes. They’ve always used actual firefighters or EMS personnel in filming their programs. Their StageIT Emergency Response Simulator is a professional compositing and editing tool that allows you to create or re-create fire, hazmat or emergency response stages of an incident and present them for testing and evaluation. StageIT uses a file and folder structure with the familiar Windows-style interface to make navigation easier. It comes with an extensive library of images and effects along with a printed user manual. Director of Sales and Marketing Ken Bostwick, a former volunteer firefighter with five years experience, shares some insights on this realistic simulator.

Realism is important to ATS. “When you’re creating these simulations, you’re talking about [a fire department’s] strategy and tactics,” said Bostwick. “There are some universal principles, but you also have to look at your available personnel and equipment. These influence your strategy and tactics.”

The software is flexible, allowing the importing of actual photos or videos from a department’s operating area. “If you’ve got pictures, if you’ve got video clips, you can put those right in, then it’s just a matter of building it,” Bostwick confirmed. “You can build something as a relatively simple simulation if you don’t have a lot of time, or you can create something that’s pretty complex. It scales with what you have the time or the ability to do.”

Bostwick says that a lot of it comes down to the experience and knowledge of the instructor, because that’s who is the brains of the simulator. “There’s no content in [the simulator], instructors are building it, so if they have some good wildland pictures that they took at a scene, they could probably do a pretty good job creating or re-creating an incident with it,” he says.

And if you feel uncomfortable with the prospect of putting together a computer training simulation, StageIT is fairly easy to use. “Firefighters or EMS personnel just want a tool that is going to help them instruct better or train better, they are generally not in love with computers per se,” Bostwick affirmed. “With StageIT’s file and folder design, you simply drag and drop effects. So, when you know a couple of basic principles about StageIT it’s pretty easy to work with.”

Another nice feature of StageIT is the ability to use scenarios in presentations. “The separate stages of a StageIT scenario are published as an independent Windows Media Video [.wmv] files automatically, which can be taken out of StageIT and inserted into other programs, like a PowerPoint presentation,” said Bostwick. “I had one guy who used StageIT to replace photos of smoke in a PowerPoint presentation he’d used for years with little movies showing those different smoke types. He said, ‘Everybody thinks I’m so cool by doing that, but it really wasn’t that hard to do!’”