General Dynamics - Pathfinder Ad

9-1-1 Magazine: Managing Emergency Communications

Priority Dispatch

Navigator 2018




Stratus Technologies

CAD, NG911 & Records Management


Recording Systems


Facilities Planning and Design

First Contact 911

Training Trends & Tactics




Holland Co     
Mobile Command Vehicles



Training to Battle Wildfires with Virtual Reality

Author: Pete Morrison, Co-CEO, Bohemia Interactive Simulations

Date: 2018-03-01
Share |

Training an officer to battle a wildfire can be done in a classroom, during a live fire drill, and now, via virtual reality. Particularly for scenarios that can’t be economically or responsibly recreated live, VR provides teams with the opportunity to encounter unparallelled realism, experience alternate outcomes and practice real time communication. Historically used to train military personnel in advance of specific missions, our Virtual Battlespace (VBS3) technology was recently adapted by Vitrociset for the Italian Forestry Corps to help visualize the propagation of forest fires. The resulting Forest Fire Area Simulator (FFAS) helps trainees mentally prepare for the many possible outcomes of a real emergency situation.


Creating a realistic fire simulation

In order to mimic an actual forest fire as closely as possible, we made several adjustments to our existing simulation technology. For example, we repurposed code originally created for a snow simulation (previously created for the Swedish Armed Forces) to develop an API that allows developers to create and control an ash layer. Additionally, we built tree models in different damage states to visualize charred forests. The API also allows swapping trees through their different ‘burnt’ states at runtime to visualize the fire’s progression. Finally, we provided new animations for characters using a firefighter broom, chainsaw, rake and shovel to apply to Vitrociset’s new Italian Forestry Corps avatars.

The resulting simulation can show a forest fire from multiple different vantage points, no matter where the user is approaching the fire from, whether that is 10,000 feet in the air while on a helicopter to 100 yards away in a ground vehicle. This ultimately allows the simulation technology to be leveraged by any member of a firefighting team, from commander down to firefighter. The simulation also takes into account weather and wind patterns, meaning the fire within the simulation will react to changes in the wind, which will change how it spreads and blows sparks.


Leveraging simulation technology to train and learn

Although other types of technology (digital monitoring, satellites, etc.) have long been used to help predict and prevent forest fires, no technology to date has been able to provide the type of immersive experience needed to train in a virtual environment. VR’s powerful ability to immerse the user in a realistic scenario is unparalleled in training. The simulation technology enables professionals to faithfully recreate scenes of operations with realistic replicas of vehicles and equipment, which helps them counteract the effects of eco-crimes, forest fires and natural disasters. The adaptable nature of this technology offers trainers and administrators flexibility in being able to quickly modify scenarios, control artificially intelligent entities and train on large virtual terrains.

The ability to see a fire from multiple different perspectives helps the commander to make decisions. In a Forest Fire Area simulator, the commander/chief can see more of what is going on from all different perspectives so he/she knows how to better command and deploy personnel on what needs to be done. After seeing many different perspectives and outcomes in a simulation, the commander takes this knowledge and can apply it to real-world scenarios when they cannot necessarily see what was available before. Repetition and variety are the other key components simulations offer allowing teams to practice realistic fire situation scenarios in every way possible, as often as necessary. This helps to ensure all necessary communications are happening as every aspect of the team from planes to fire trucks to firefighters, etc., need to be instructed along the way. Communication is further utilized in the VBS3 After Action Review where users can replay the virtual scenario they just practiced to allow for debriefing and analyzing how things went, how to improve, and more.


Applying simulation training to more than forest fires

Needless to say, wildfires are not the only fires one hopes to prevent or be better prepared to extinguish. While Vitrociset is the first organization to implement VBS3 software into a forest fire simulator, the technology has the potential to be used on a smaller scale within a city. When it comes to deciding whether or not simulation software, which will be more expensive than typical firefighter training, is right for an organization, think through whether or not the scenario you need to replicate is dangerous or difficult to replicate in the real world. For example, while smaller burns such as house fires are easier to replicate and practice putting out in real time, fires in metro areas and larger cities can be trickier. Metro areas such as downtowns or densely populated cities could benefit from simulation technology. The simulations could help firefighters practice putting out fires in high-rise buildings and city streets, that otherwise would be difficult to prepare for on a large scale.

When resources are spread thin, there still needs to be a way for teams to train to prepare for and prevent fires of any and all magnitudes. Virtual simulation training is beneficial for emergency personnel of all levels, whether training for the first time or a commander refreshing their knowledge and skills. Our VBS3 software can be adapted to allow for training in any environment from battling a wildfire or being prepared for a widespread metro city fire. Simulation may be one of the more costly training options, but the repetition and variety of situations it presents as well as the improved communication it teaches make it beneficial to all involved.


Pete Morrison is the Co-CEO, Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim), a global software company at the forefront of simulation training solutions for defense and civilian organizations. Using the latest game-based technology BISim’s experienced in-house team of engineers develops high-fidelity, cost-effective training and simulation software products and components for defense applications. For more information, see:



Show: Newest | Oldest

Post a Comment

Log in or sign up to comment

9-1-1 Magazine is a Sponsor of the California Mobile Command Center Rally

Send mail to with questions or comments about this portal.

© 2010-2017 9-1-1 MAGAZINE and The content of this portal is the property of 9-1-1 MAGAZINE and  We encourage government public-safety agencies to share any content with their staff, however, all others must not duplicate or modify any content without prior written consent of 9-1-1 MAGAZINE. Email for permissions. For more information, read the Terms of Service. Continued access of this portal and system implies consent to the above statements and those maintained on the Terms of Service.

Powered by Solata

MCM Consulting Yellow Submarine Marketing

 Team Rennick

Barry Furey