Andy, tell us a bit about yourself
My local Government career started in 1984 as a Countryside Ranger where I worked all over Dorset on a wide range of countryside access and conservation projects. I was then seconded into the Geographical Information Systems team and left Local Government as the GIS Manager in 2018.
Since 1983 I have also been a Retained, or On-call, fire fighter and am currently a Station Commander and a National Wildfire Tactical Advisor. During this time, I have gained experience in a wide range of operational activities, but since 1998 have been specialising in wildfires. I am also a Technical Expert in Wildfires with the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Currently, I manage my own Wildfire Training and Consultancy business, WildfireTaC, am still a serving Fire Officer and am a Senior Research Fellow in Wildfire at the University of Exeter.
Tell us more about WildfireTaC?
WildfireTaC is the culmination of a lifelong passion for wildfire and the need to understand it. I now provide training and consultation services to land managers in wildfire suppression, mitigation and management. This includes managing prescribed fires for training purposes as well as conservation and fuel management.
I spend some of my time on the research and development of new products that I think will help members of the public and emergency responders better protect themselves and their assets, including homes, from wildfire. I have successfully patented a rescue device and am currently looking into a number of novel wildfire concepts yet to go public!
What are your research interests?
I have been involved in wildfire research in the UK, Europe and South Africa over many years. This has given me an excellent insight into several wildfire issues. I was fortunate enough to spend a month working in the Kruger National Park in South Africa looking into ignition patterns to create different fire intensities for controlled burns. I have attended a Training Exchange (TREX) in, Oregon in 2016 and again in 2017 working on prescribed fires mostly in forestry plantations. While there I gained my wildfire qualifications FFT1 and FFT2. In 2019 I attended TREX Andalucía and presented on Prescribed fires for conservation. I have been an Associate Researcher at the University of Exeter for a while and since January 2020 have been employed at the wildFIRE Lab as a Senior Research Fellow in Wildfire.
Currently I am researching the flammability and ignitability of UK fuels as part of a four year NERC funded research project to help create a UK Fire Danger Rating System (UKFDRS). This will help to inform land managers, emergency responders and the public about fire danger throughout the UK.
I have been involved in Firewise for many years and am pleased to be part of the FirewiseUK project. While I accept that we are a long way from the scale of devastation being seen in places like California and Australia, I firmly believe that we can do far more to prepare for climate change here in the UK. We will see an increase in wildfires and we should prepare ourselves and our homes for this. FirewiseUK is an excellent way to educate ourselves in home hardening and preparedness.
Other areas for future research include the physiological effects of PPE on firefighters and how this can be linked to the Heat Stress Index to improve firefighter safety. Part of this is fully investigating the whole ensemble, including base layers like Armadillo Merino®
Why Armadillo Merino®?
I have worked on wildfires around the world, most notably the Valley Fire in California during 2015. This has exposed me to some extreme conditions and I have seen the effect that wildfire can have on the human body. Education, training, knowledge and skills are probably the best way for firefighters to stay safe and be effective, but it can go wrong. And when it does, we have to rely on our Personal Protective Equipment. This takes many forms and often overlooked is the foundation or base layer. Many firefighters wear synthetic base layers for their ability to ‘wick’ moisture away from the body. But in extreme conditions these materials can melt to the skin, increasing the severity of burns. I have tried many base layers, some to keep me dry, some to keep me cool and some to keep me warm, Armadillo Merino® does all of these things, but also protects me from burns and it doesn’t stink at the end of a long shift or even a long week! Good quality PPE, including the base layer, are essential to keep wildland firefighters comfortable throughout their shift, all day, every day.
"often overlooked is the foundation or base layer. Many firefighters wear synthetic base layers for their ability to ‘wick’ moisture away from the body. But in extreme conditions these materials can melt to the skin, increasing the severity of burns."