International Wildfire Experts Gather for First iFireNet Summer School

iFireNet Summer School participants came to UCI from around the world to share resources on wildfire behavior.

Aug. 1, 2022 – Summer school at UCI Samueli School of Engineering looked a bit different this year. As record-high temperatures and threats of fires topped global news headlines, about 45 participants from around the world gathered to discuss and share information about fire behavior at the first ever session of iFireNet Summer School.

The three-day program was held July 19-21 at UCI’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building and online. It featured experts’ oral presentations, hands-on tutorials and networking for wildland fire researchers. Tirtha Banerjee, iFireNet principal investigator and UCI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, opened the summer program with Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, co-principal investigator, Distinguished Professor of civil and environmental engineering, and associate dean of research and innovation. They welcomed attendees from across the U.S., Australia, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Participants included students, postdoctoral scholars, and early career and senior researchers who presented their wildfire science work. Topics included mapping, modeling and mitigating wildland fire risk; new ways of looking at fire using AI; lessons from wildfires in Northern Europe; developing science support for prescribed fire applications; and more.

Established in 2021 by Banerjee and based at UCI, iFireNet is an international “network of networks” of interdisciplinary experts from academia, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector working to answer fundamental questions in wildfire science. Countries involved include the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, New-Zealand, Norway and Spain. iFireNet is funded by the National Science Foundation’s AccelNet program.

Banerjee praised iFireNet executive committee members Margarita Rivera and Ajinkya Desai, civil and environmental engineering doctoral students, postdoctoral researcher Janine Baijnath-Rodino and undergraduate student Madeline Chung, “who worked extremely hard to organize and make this happen.”

“The connections established through the summer school will lead to cross disciplinary exchanges among early career researchers and senior researchers from different parts of the world,” said Banerjee. “This will lead to advancements on some of the fundamental aspects of wildland fire science, which is the original goal of iFireNet.”

– Tonya Becerra