In the spirit of collaboration, the National Institute of Standards and technology (NIST) has hosted a meeting of the top scientists from across the United States and Japan, along with attendees from other nations, called Operation Tomodachi. The English translation of the word Tomodachi is friendship. NIST was established in 1901 by a bill introduced by Congressman Southard with the directive to serve as the national laboratory and oversee standard weights and measures. The scientists at NIST have received world recognition including Nobel Peace prizes and other awards. NIST was responsible for investigating the 2002 collapse of the World Trade Center and has developed a renowned Fire Science Laboratory.
According to a NIST abstract, “Dr. Samuel L. Manzello of NIST’s Engineering Laboratory (EL) served as the USA side organizer of the 2nd Japan-USA workshop held in Tokyo, Japan from July 1 to July 4, 2012. This workshop was known as Operation Tomodachi - Fire Research. This workshop, led by Dr. Samuel L. Manzello of EL-NIST and Dr. Tokiyoshi Yamada of the University of Tokyo, was conducted in partnership with the Japan Association of Fire Science and Engineering (JAFSE). The objective is to open a dialogue for new research collaborations between Japan/USA in an effort to develop scientifically based building codes and standards that will be of use to both countries to reduce the devastation caused by unwanted fires.” The devastating natural fires in Japan are generally the result of earthquake and tsunamis, as well as wildfire. The research on fire mitigation and hardening homes from Japan was shared with US scientists who in turn shared their studies on structural engineering and wildfire.
It was interesting to note that wildfires in Japan are causing less devastation than in the U.S. This is attributed in part due to fewer people moving to rural communities and to a combination of greater efforts on creating healthy forests and fire resilient homes. According to researcher Nelson Bryner from the fire engineering laboratory at NIST in his paper, Large Outdoor Fires in USA: What is the Problem, “In the United States 60% of new home construction is in the WUI. Wildfires have increased and these US wildfires contribute more carbon dioxide (CO2) 200% more (greenhouse emissions) than all the cars in California. This wildfire devastation in the states also affects the environment in the form of mudslides after the fires and harm to the watershed and water ecosystem from silt accumulations that destroy water quality and fish and other creatures that live in the affected water ecosystem."
There were many presentations and papers shared and discussed at panel discussions. It was also decided by many scientists present that there are many new opportunities for additional research. Progress made in wildfire research can improve the way new homes are constructed and help increase the development of new Firewise and Fire Adapted Communities.