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Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory hosts Moroccan study tour

WASHINGTON, DC—Last week, the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory hosted three specialists from Morocco’s High Commission on Water, Forests, and Combating Desertification for a one-week study tour. The Forest Service lead for the study tour was Greg Dillon, acting deputy program manager at the Fire Modeling Institute. The study tour focused on improving understanding of the U.S. Forest Service’s organizational system for predictive modeling of forest fire spread risk.

The following individuals presented on behalf of the Forest Service: Erin Noonan-Wright, Eva Karau, LaWen Hollingsworth, Chuck McHugh, Matt Reeves, Matt Jolly and Greg Dillon. To study predictive modeling of forest fire spread risk, the group discussed various resources and methods used for mapping vegetation types, fuel models and forest canopy characteristics. Study tour participants were also challenged to transpose and adapt the U.S. system to the Morocco context, creating a roadmap for planned short- and medium-term implementation actions. Missoula smokejumper Dan Cottrell also spent time with the Moroccan specialists in Missoula to demonstrate fireline construction methods and tools safety.

Morocco’s forest resources are threatened by reduced rainfall, increased desertification and wildfire. Forests in northern Morocco are critical to local livelihoods and recreation for residents and international visitors alike. As the ecology of forested areas in Morocco’s Mediterranean landscape is extremely prone to fires, the High Commission requested the Forest Service assist in enhancing fire management programs to improve management of Morocco’s rapidly shrinking forested areas.

The study tour was organized by the International Programs office and co-funded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

The Forest Service has collaborated with the High Commission since 2007 on a number of natural resource management programs including rangeland management, watershed conservation, and information systems management to enhance forest conservation throughout the country.

Since 2012, the Forest Service has supported fire management in Morocco by adapting Incident Command System principles to improve efficiency and coordination of Morocco’s wildfire management efforts.

Smokejumpers demonstrate how to create fire line with hand tools.
Missoula smokejumpers Dan Cottrell, Scott Jones and Tyson Lucier demonstrate how using hand tools to create fire lines can be an effective way to slow or stop wildfires. USDA Forest Service photo by Angela Trujillo.
Training session in a conference room.
Erin Noonan-Wright, fire application specialist, and Chuck McHugh, fire spatial analyst, Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, lead a discussion on fire behavior modeling, fire modeling software applications and fuels data calibration. USDA Forest Service photo by Angela Trujillo.