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IBM Helps Federal Agencies Assess Organizational Needs for Managing Wildland Fire


Optimizing Resources Streamlines Operations

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY -- Nov 7, 2005 -- IBM today announced a follow on contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to develop a system which will be used for fire planning, budget development and budget allocation for the five federal wildland fire agencies.

The project, called Fire Program Analysis (FPA), provides the -- USDA Forest Service, and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs -- with a common system to support wildland fire preparedness analysis, planning, and budgeting. The new system shows the most effective choice of resources (engines, crews, helicopters, etc.), for managing wildland fire and the number of acres that can be protected or improved under different budget scenarios.

During the first phase of the project, FPA-Preparedness Module (FPA-PM) development, IBM Research collaborated with university and government researchers to develop a model that considers various factors that affect fire growth and containment. Using that information, IBM optimization techniques allow the system to identify the most cost effective organization for a range of budget levels.

“Planning for wildland fire requires the government agencies to determine the most effective resources, including vehicles, aircraft, ground crew, support staff and managers, while staying within their budgets and making sure they can protect a given area,” said Peggy Kennelly, vice president of IBM’s On Demand Innovation Services. “These are the exact types of challenging and complex problems that our researchers are experts at solving by combining existing assets with groundbreaking algorithms and technologies.”

Wildland fire factors, such as weather and ignition sources are impossible to predict two years in advance. This level of uncertainty in budget planning requires using a flexible modeling and optimization approach that considers the uncertainty in those factors, rather than traditional simulation forecasting methods that rely on static estimates. IBM Research is applying their expertise and skills in optimization and modeling to help develop this solution.

FPA-PM, an example of the optimization assets created by IBM Research, takes input such as the terrain, climate and size of fires from previous years and computes an effective combination of personnel and equipment.

The new contract is the second one awarded to IBM’s On Demand Innovation Services (ODIS) team for this project. ODIS, the partnership between IBM Research and Business Consulting Services (BCS), helps clients transform to the On Demand business model by combining the deep technical expertise of IBM Research with the business insight of IBM’s consultants.

Phase 1, which was delivered on schedule, and according to the agency’s stated requirements last October, aids in planning for the “initial response” phase of fires (response during the first 18 hours after ignition). Initial response includes initial attack, when fire fighting strategies actively suppress a fire, to wildland fire use, which monitors and manages beneficial effects from naturally caused fires.

The new project includes requirements analysis, prototyping and architecture development for all other aspects of fire program management, including prevention, large fires, and extended response.

The project team includes many disciplines and organizations across IBM including Research, Business Consulting Services (BCS), Application Management Services (AMS), representing various geographies including the United States and India.

About IBM Research Division
IBM Research is the world’s largest information technology research organization, with about 3,000 scientists and engineers in eight labs in six countries. IBM has produced more research breakthroughs than any other company in the IT industry. For more information on IBM Research, visit

For more information on the Interagency Project visit


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