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Aerial Firefighting Use and Effectiveness (AFUE)

Fire Retardant Drop on Crow Peak Fire

Airtanker dropping fire retardant on Crow Peak Fire on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota
Airtanker dropping fire retardant on Crow Peak Fire on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota

AFUE Mission Statement

“To systematically document the operational utilization and tactical contribution of aerial firefighting resources that have the ability to deliver water and wildland fire chemicals in support of incident objectives. AFUE is tasked to develop and implement performance metrics, technologies, and evaluation criteria in which effective tactical and strategic decisions are statistically supported.”

The Aerial Firefighting Use and Effectiveness (AFUE) Study was initiated in 2012 to answer a general, but complex question: “What are the best mixes of aircraft to do any fire suppression job?” Data collected from this study and other sources will be used to inform decisions about the composition of the interagency wildland firefighting aircraft fleet.

The nationwide, multi-year AFUE study is chartered by the U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Program. The AFUE Study uses four “observation modules,” each comprised of three qualified firefighters, as well as a dedicated aircraft, to collect ground and aerial data at wildfires throughout the nation during fire season.

Data collection began in 2012, primarily to develop methods. Data collected from 2012 through 2014 is not sufficient to provide statistically defensible analysis and results. The U.S. Forest Service plans to begin releasing annual detailed fire suppression aircraft use summaries for 2015 and 2016 during 2017. Additional use summaries will come out several months after each data collection season. The remainder of the AFUE Study products will be released after several more fire seasons, once the sample size and statistical confidence increases.

 

Key Points

The AFUE study will provide key information to define and track performance metrics for wildland fire aerial suppression aircraft.

  • The results of the study may lead to improvements in training, mission selection and execution, and eventually fleet planning, leading to overall improvement in aviation cost effectiveness and potentially to fire suppression cost savings.
  • AFUE collects aircraft drop location and information including the objectives and outcomes for each drop, along with terrain, slope, fuel type, fire behavior, weather conditions and other factors that may influence drop effectiveness.
  • By documenting the objectives, conditions and outcomes of individual drops, AFUE provides a means to identify and track the performance of specific aircraft types, and assess the influence of the operational missions that drops supported and environmental factors that influenced outcomes.
  • All AFUE missions are coordinated through Geographic Area Coordination Centers, local dispatch centers and the on-scene local Incident Command System, and try not to influence operational decisions or outcomes. AFUE operates at no cost to any incident for the data collection mission.
  • The AFUE study uses four “observation modules” of three qualified firefighters each as well as a dedicated aircraft to collect ground and aerial data throughout the nation and throughout fire season.

 

Quick Facts Aerial Firefighting Use and Effectiveness (AFUE) Study Aircraft Operations

AFUE Study on Rice Ridge Fire, Montana

AFUE study on Rice Ridge Fire, Montana, 2017

AFUE study on Rice Ridge Fire, Montana, 2017

AFUE study on Rice Ridge Fire, Montana, 2017

AFUE study on Rice Ridge Fire, Montana, 2017

AFUE study on Rice Ridge Fire, Montana, 2017

 

 

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