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Wildfire training in the Netherlands

In September this year, Dutch Safety Regions Twente and IJsselland conducted their yearly wildfire exercise for incident commanders at the barracks in Nijverdal. Using the XVR On Scene wildfire module, participants were able to exercise fighting wildfires as well as communication with other (roleplayed) agencies. Combined with a live exercise, all participants agreed that this was a very beneficial way of training.

Staff from the Twente Fire Brigade remodeled the Forest and Heath environment to resemble a real-life location at the Hellendoornse Berg in Overijssel. For optimal realism, the environment contained the actual pathways and entry points, so that what the participants saw on the screen accurately reflected the area maps. The scenario depicted a heath fire with an already-burnt area, and a wildfire that would spread according to a preset path according to weather conditions, wind direction and speed, and dryness. Incident commanders of different levels and with different command areas had to work together to put the fire out. Later in the day, they could build on their learning experience with a live exercise in approximately the same area used to model the virtual scenario.

The virtual exercise had a total of 30 participants. Each incident commander was supported by a colleague throughout the exercise, while other colleagues played the role of other first responders, such as police and water tender. Colleagues specialised in wildfires from Safety Region Noord- en Oost-Gelderland attended to support the day’s exercises. Finally, members of the Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch governmental organisation which manages the Dutch forests and nature reserves, were also present to provide their expertise. 

Overall, it was considered a successful exercise by everyone present, and the exercise instructor, Hendri van Zon of the Education and Exercise department at Twente Fire Brigade, was very pleased with the outcome. “The new camera function of XVR On Scene 2020 made it easier to follow the participants across long distances,” says Hendri van Zon. “This way of working was well received by our 30 participants. Combined with the live exercise in the field, this was a good way of training.” 

Hendri van Zon’s only regret is that the current XVR wildfire module only supports a map of 1 km2, which meant they had to imagine a water collection point using additional area maps outside the scenario. To help Hendri van Zon and others like him in the future, XVR Simulation has worked on a research and development project with CFA (Country Fire Authority) in Australia and have delivered a 100 km2 environment, fully compatible with wildfire functionalities. Any XVR user looking for a larger environment is welcome to get in touch - we are happy to discuss the possibilities.