Some guys at the University of Granada, Spain, have developed software for managing wildfire-fighting efforts. SIADEX is designed to speed decision-making for resource allocation, as an article in New Scientist describes:
“Computerised maps are already used by people in charge of managing the fire-fighting effort. These maps are used to plan which areas to focus on and which resources to deploy, such as fire engines, planes and helicopters.
But working out the details of such a plan involves coordinating thousands of people, hundreds of vehicles and many other resources. SIADEX is able to help by rapidly weighing up different variables.
For example, it calculates which fire engines could reach an area first, where aircraft could be used, and even how to organise the shift patterns of individual fire fighters. It then very quickly produces several different detailed plans. … One plan might be the cheapest, another the fastest, and a third the least complicated.”
I wonder how Normal Maclean would have felt about this approach to fire-fighting. I imagine like me he’d be interested in how this new tool can be used to aid and protect wildland fire-fighters, but the given the unpredictability of fire behaviour (in the light of current understanding) would still maintain that human experience, gained over many years dealing with unique situations, will be invaluable in managing fire-fighters and their resources. As with much computer software, this should remain as a tool to aid human decision-making, not replace it.