Upper ASEAN Wildland Fire Special Research Unit

Forestry Research Center, Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University

5th Floor, 72nd Anniversary of Faculty Forestry Building


There are many forest fires, smoke and haze related researches and studies in Thailand and the Upper ASEAN region. A few forest fire management books have been written addressing the environmental and socioeconomic implications of fire use and wildfires in the region. A few studies on forest fire behavior and fuel have been elaborated at the Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University, the Forest Fire Control Division and others in Thailand. However, there is no database on forest fire, open burning, smoke and haze related studies database in the Upper ASEAN region. Thus, it is not entirely known if these studies are covering the areas/ecosystems typically affected by fire use or wildfires and how much field data exist. It is difficult to manage the existing studies and the underlying datasets are often difficult to locate or missing. At this time, no one knows in detail what gaps in fire, smoke and haze knowledge must be filled. Furthermore, decision makers are not aware of the knowledge and information about the role of fire and fire emissions (smoke and haze) that are needed in order to support informed, effective and efficient fire and smoke management.

Fire behavior and its effects for tropical pine forest, deciduous forest, and peat forest have been reviewed and studied (Wanthongchai and Goldammer, 2008; Wanthonchai et al., 2008; Wiriya, 2009; Wanthonchai et al., 2011; Wanthonchai et al., 2013; Wanthonchai et al., 2014; Chairak et. al., 2016). There are a few attempts trying to create fire risk maps of Thailand, but there is none cover the upper ASEAN with varieties of information using satellite remote sensing data from Earth Observation Systems (EOS), Geographic Information System (GIS) and weather forecast knowledge such as active fire detection, burn areas mapping, fire weather index (Tanpipat, 2000; Tanpipat, 2002; Tanpipat et al., 2003; Tanpipat et al., 2004; Tanpipat et al., 2005; Nuchaiya, 2006; Tanpipat, 2008; Tanpipat et al., 2009; Tanpipat, 2010; Tanpipat, 2011a and 2011b; Poschong, 2010; Chien et al., 2011; Dontri, 2011; Sirimongkonlertkun et al., 2013; Rücker et al., 2017a and 2017b; Manomaipiboon et al., 2017). The adjustment and calibration of Canadian Fire Danger Rating System has been done to be more suitable to upper ASEAN (Manomaipiboon et al., 2017a and 2017b; Tanpipat, 2017). The nature combustion process is highly complex: heat release, oxygen availability, fuel composition, topography, and weather all interact to affect fire and smoke behavior. In the upper ASEAN countries, human influence on timing, location, and size of fires cannot be ignored. This makes accurate risk mapping a different, and more complex, problem compared with less populated areas. True knowledge of vegetation types / fuels, topography, and weather is needed to be understood in order to be able to predict and manage fire, smoke and haze; humans are the most important ignition source. The assessment of high-accuracy fire risk maps thus is important to consider the human component.

This is why principles of Integrated Fire Management (IFM) include the involvement of people and their abilities to apply fire in land-use systems safely and environmentally benign and to be able to prevent and control excessive burnings and unwanted wildfires. It attempts to bring together the best knowledge about 3 aspects of fires: ecology, management, and social.  People participation means people get involved in all problem-solving and local development planning processes in fire management with their own responsibilities along with support by government agencies and non-government organizations. The successful of participation of local communities depends greatly on a strong local leadership and education level (Sirimongkonlertkun et al., 2015). Other information on fire ecology is also important since people can judge whether they will adopt fire plans. The application of participatory or community-based practices in countries of Southeast Asia, however, is still very limited.

Apart of fire being the major force for the accelerating degradation and destruction of natural forests and other sensitive ecosystems, smog and haze from excessive application of fire in land-use change impact humans’ health and security. The smog pollution and haze issue indeed has a transboundary and international dimension. Smog and haze can travel across borders. Therefore, cooperative international efforts are critical to tackle this problem. The latest severe example of regional smoke pollution was the year 2015 when smoke from fire use for converting natural peatland ecosystems to plantation in South Sumatra released smoke that blanketed the Upper ASEAN region (Yokelson et al., 2016). The smoke and haze (fire emissions) become an annual problem in northern Thailand and upper ASEAN often affecting even countries like Taiwan and lower mainland China (Phairuang, 2006; Rayanakorn, 2010; Wang et al., 2012; Chantara et al., 2012; Pongpiachan et al., 2014; Lin et al., 2014; Field et al., 2015; Houseman et al., 2015; Yadav et al., 2017; Goldammer et al., 2017). There is not enough smoke and haze behavior research in the upper ASEAN region (Tanpipat et al., 2010; Tanpipat, 2015a and 2015b; Tanpipat 2016).

With the application of existing scientific and technical knowledge it is possible to reduce the occurrence of excessive application of fire in land use and land-use change and to reduce the occurrence of wildfires, thus reducing severe environmental damages and people affected, including the loss of lives. This is why an active Science-Policy Interface must be created to bring the state of knowledge and fire science and fire management to the decision- and policy making levels.

Rationale for the establishment of a Wildland Fire Special Research Unit within the Forestry Research Center

In Lower Mekong, fire, smoke and haze have long posed a significant problem, and efforts to really understand, manage and control them have been insufficient. Unfortunately, there is not existing place where knowledge and findings have been compiled and redistributed.  Furthermore, there is also no unifying group motivating the science toward a deeper understanding of wildland fire, smoke and haze in order to manage the problems more efficiently.

Until now there was no existing focus or dedicated research center or unit that dealt directly with wildland fires, smoke and haze occurring in the vegetation types, geographic conditions and under weather patterns and related human behaviors of mainland Southeast Asia (Lower Mekong Basin). The ecosystems and the purpose of fire use in Mainland Southeast Asia differ from those in Insular Southeast Asia, which is dominated by fire use to convert equatorial tropical rain forest and peatlands. It is deciduous forest that is the dominant vegetation type up here.  Moreover, for example, there are many mislead information and misunderstanding of the wildfires, smoke and haze issues because lacking scientific based research efforts and studies such as forest fire, smoke and haze behaviors which are very important elements to thoroughly understand in order to control and manage fire, smoke and haze situation efficiently; therefore, the establishment of an Upper ASEAN Wildland Fire Special Research Unit (WFSRU) within the Forestry Research Center, Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University, Thailand, which was founded in 1987, was essential and needed. The WFSRU was inaugurated in October 2017 and will act in the Upper ASEAN Region to provide fire, smoke and haze scientific and management knowledge to interested parties.

The WFSRU will closely cooperate with the Regional Fire Management Resource Center – South East Asia (RFMRC-SEA, https://rfmrc-sea.org/) which was established at Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia, in July 2017.  The WFSRU and RFMRC-SEA will act under the umbrella of Global Wildland Fire Network of UN International Strategy for Disaster ReDuction (UNISDR, http://gfmc.online/globalnetworks/globalnet.html, Figure 1) and its Secretariat, the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC, http://gfmc.online/).

The WFSRU will follow up and continue with previous collaborations such as Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS, https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov), NASA-LANCE-Earthdata-Rapid Response Team (https://earthdata.nasa.gov/earth-observation-data/near-real-time/rapid-response), Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)-Global Fire Assimilation System-The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF, http://atmosphere.copernicus.eu/about-cams), ACT Emergency Services Agency, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI, https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/), Regional Education and Training Center (RETC, http://retc.afocosec.org/)-Asia Forest Fire Training and Landmark Program (AFoCO, http://www.afocosec.org/afoco/pc/en/), Canadian Forest Service, Royal Forest Department, National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (http://www.dnp.go.th/forestfire/), ZEBRIS GbR (https://firemaps.net/), Seven SouthEast Asian Studies (7-SEAS)-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-Marine Meteorology Division-U.S. Navy (https://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/aerosol_web/7seas/7seas.html), National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT), Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute (HAII), Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC, https://www.recoftc.org/), Lao PDR Department of Forestry (http://www.maf.gov.la/), Myanmar Forest Department (http://www.forestdepartment.gov.mm/eng/), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, http://global.jaxa.jp/), Academia Sinica Grid Computing Centre (ASGC)-Taiwan GRID (http://www.twgrid.org/en/), Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) Disaster Mitigation Working Group (DMWG, https://apan.net/) and Disaster Mitigation Competence Centre Plus (DMCC+, https://wiki.egi.eu/wiki/DMCC%2B).

Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)

Source: Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
Figure 1. This world map shows the delineation of the Regional Wildland Fire Networks.

Terms of Reference for the Unit

1. Particular Upper ASEAN Research Tasks

1.1. Fundamental fire research

- Fire ecology: Characterization and functional role of fire in different ecosystems of Mainland Southeast Asia (the southern deciduous / semi-deciduous dipterocarp forest, mountain pine forests, wetland and peatland biomes, and agricultural lands); including relationship with climate change
- Fire behavior: Characterization of combustibles (fuels); modeling fire behavior in dependence of fire weather; fire hazard & wildfire risk assessments; including relationship with climate change
- Fire emissions: Vegetation fire emission characteristics/properties, emission factors, smoke dispersion/transport modeling, impact of fire emissions on the local, regional and global atmosphere and climate

1.2. Advanced tools for fire early warning, monitoring and impact assessment

- Fire early warning: Improvement of existing fire danger rating systems for various ecosystem and landscape types in the region including relationship with climate change
- Early fire detection: Application of advanced ground-based methods for rapid fire detection (camera-based smoke sensing systems)
- Satellite fire detection, monitoring and impact assessment: Utilization of existing open access and commercial satellite-borne sensors for near-real time detection and monitoring of active fires and smoke emissions; area burned; ecosystem response including damages

1.3. The human dimension of vegetation fires

- Socio-economics of fire: Reasons for fire application in land use and land-use change (forest and open land ecosystems, including agricultural and pasture lands); causes of wildfires; direct and indirect impacts of fires on society (rural, urban)
- Impact of fires on human health, security and private & public assets
- Community involvement and empowerment in fire management (prevention, preparedness, response, appropriate use of fire)

1.4. Fire management

- Fire investigation and fire statistical databases: Development of capabilities allowing to understand the causes, extent and consequences of fire
- Fire management information systems and planning: Development of fire information systems based on advanced IT tools, fire management plans (preparedness and pre-suppression planning)
- Training: Provision of advanced training concepts and training services aimed at enhancing overall fire management capabilities of local, national and regional actors (fire prevention, preparedness, suppression and application of prescribed fire)

2. Cooperation with the Regional Fire Management Resource CenterSouth East Asia (RFMRC-SEA, https://rfmrc-sea.org/)

The Regional Fire Management Resource Center-South East Asia (RFMRC-SEA), which was established at Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia, in July 2017, is coordinator of the UNISDR Regional South East Asia Wildland Fire Network serving the fire science-policy interface for the pan-Southeast Asian/ASEAN region.  At this level, WFSRU will cooperate with and support the RFMRC-SEA, which is addressing fire management policies and cross-boundary cooperation in fire management on the following

- Creation of a science-policy interface to serveat national and regional levels: Provision of science and technology-based advisory services to policy makers and planning
- Support of the development of holistic fire management policies at landscape level and through inter-agency / cross-sectoral cooperation
- Provision of rationale for legislation and law enforcement
- Development of rationale and guidance: Creation of SOPs and guidelines aimed at enhancing interoperability of actors across national borders, conducting cross-boundary training
- Supporting the development of inter-agency (national) cross-boundary agreements (bilateral) agreements on cooperation in fire management


1. Assistant Professor Dr. Kobsak Wanthongchai (fforksw@ku.ac.th and kobsak_wanthongchai@yahoo.com)
2. Dr. Veerachai Tanpipat, (iamtanpipat@hotmail.com and veerachai.tanpipat@gmail.com)


Chairak, S., Wanthongchai, K. and Kooha, P. 2016. Forest fire behavior in Kuan Kreng peat forest, Nakorn Sri Thammarat province. In the 10th Silvicultural Seminar,   “Plantation towards Thailand‘ Eco-Economy”. 1-4 May, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand.

Dontri, S., Knowledge and Guidance for Forest Fire Management, Report to Environmental Fund, 2016

Chantara, S., Sillapapiromsuk, S., Wiriya, W., Atmospheric Pollutants in Chiang Mai Thailand over a five-year period 2005-2009 their possible sources and relation to air mass movement 2012, Atmospheric Environment, 2012

Chien, S., Doubleday, J., Mclaren, Tran, D.,Tanpipat, V., Akaakara, S., Ratanasuwan, A., and Mandl, D., Space-based Sensorweb Monitoring of Wildfires in Thailand, IGRASS, Vancouver, Canada, 2011.

Field, R. D., Spessa, A. C., Aziz, N. A., Camia, A., Cantin, A., Carr, R., de Groot, W. J., Dowdy, A. J., Flannigan, M. D., Manomaiphiboon, K., Pappenberger, F., Tanpipat, V., Wang, X., Development of a Global Fire Weather Database for 1980-2012, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1407-1423, doi:10.5194/nhess-15-1407-2015, 2015.

Goldammer, J. G., Mangeon, S., Keywood, M., Kaiser, J. W., de Groot, W. J., Gunawan, D., Gan, C. Baklanov, A.: Vegetation Fire and Smoke Pollution Warning and Advisory System (VFSP-WAS): Concept Note and Expert Recommendations. World Meteorological Organization (WMO), GAW Report No. 235, 2017.

Housman, I., Tanpipat, V., Biswas, T., Clark, A., Stephen, P., Maus, P., Megown, K., Monitoring forest change in Southeast Asia: case studies for USAID Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests, RSAC-10108-RPT1, Salt Lake City, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center, 16 p. 2015.

Lin, N.H., Sayer, A.M., Wang, S-H., Loftus, A.M., Hsiao, T-C., Sheu, G-R., a, Hsu, N.C., Tsay, S-C., Chantara, S., Interactions between biomass-burning aerosols and clouds over Southeast Asia: Current status, challenges, and perspectives, Environmental Pollution, Volume 195, December 2014, Pages 292-307

Manomaiphiboon, K., Tanpipat, V., Nhuchaiya, P., Jaroonrattanapak, N., Buaniam, C. (2017), an Operational Fire Danger Forecast System for Lower Mekong River Region: Technical Concepts and Current Implementation. 1st International Conference on Regional Haze and Climate Change Management (RHCCM), 2017a

Manomaiphiboon, K., Tanpipat, V., Nhuchaiya, P., Jaroonrattanapak, N., Buaniam, C. (2017), an Operational Fire Danger Forecast System for Lower Mekong River Region: Technical Concepts and Current Implementation. 1st International Conference on Regional Haze and Climate Change Management (RHCCM), 2017a

Manomaiphiboon, K., Tanpipat, V., Nhuchaiya, P., Jaroonrattanapak, N., Buaniam, C., Development of a Regional Fire Danger Forecast System for Upper Thailand and Lower Mekong River Basin Areas in Support of Forest Fire Management and Control. Final report, conducted by The Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, funded by Biodiversity-Based Economy Development Office and National Research Council of Thailand, (in Thai with English abstract), 2017b

Manomaiphiboon, K., Pengchai, P., Surapipith, V., Thepanondh, S., Onchang, R., Wiwatwattana, N., Tanpipat, V., and Garivait, S., Smoke-Haze Forecast Modeling for Upper North Thailand during March-April 2008, World Renewable Energy Congress 2009 – Asia the 3rd International Conference on “Sustain Energy and Environment (SEE),” 18-23 May 2009, Bangkok

Nuchaiya, P., Thailand Fire Risk Map, Forest Fire Control Division, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, 2006

Phairuang, W., Hata, M., Furuuchi, M., Influence of agricultural activities, forest fires and agro-industries on air quality in Thailand, Journal of Environmental Sciences, 2006.

Pongpiachan, S., Tipmanee, D., Khumsup, C., Kittikoon, I., Hiryyatraku;, P., Assessing Risks to adults and preschool children posed by PM2.5bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs during a biomass burning episode in Northern Thailand,   Science of The Environment, 2014

Poschong, S. Thailand Fire Risk Map, Geoinformatics Division, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, 2010

Rayanakorn, M., Haze and Air Pollution in Chiang Mai, Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies and Thai Health Promotion Foundation Funding, Report, 2010

Rücker, G., Tiemann, J., Leimbach, D., Tanpipat, V., Lorenz, E., Analyzing Fire Behavior From Space Using Medium and High Resolution Infared Sensors, 11th EARSeL (European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories) Forest Fires Special Interest Groups (SIG) Workshop, New Trends in Forest Fire Research Incorporating Big Data and Climate Change Modeling, Chania, Crete, Greece, Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (CIHEAM - MAICh), 25-27 September 2017a

Rücker, G., Leimach,D., J. Tiemann, J., Tanpipat, V. and Lorenz, E., Analyzing fire behavior from space using medium and high resolution IR sensors, The 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE-37), Tshwane, South Africa 8 to 12 May 2017b

Sirimongkonlertkun, N., Prommee, V., Pongleerat, S., Chiang Rai Hotspot Mobile Application, Report funded by Biodiversity-Based Economy Development Office and National Research Council of Thailand, (in Thai with English abstract) 2017.

Sirimongkonlertkun, N. and Pongleerat, S., Chiangrai Spatial Information Open Burning Risk Maps, Funded by Thai Universities for Healthy Public Policies and Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Report, 2013

Tanpipat, V., Early Warning System by Forecast Fire Danger Rating System of Thailand and Upper ASEAN and Forest Fire Control in Thailand, Disaster Mitigation MasterClass, APAN43 India, 15-16 February 2017, Remotely Presented.

Tanpipat, V., Misusage MODIS Active Fire Information, Channels which can be used to monitor forest fire, smoke and haze situation through Internet, and What Should Forest Fire Smoke Behavior should be studied in Thailand, Annual Training of Special Forest Fire Force, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, 7-12 January, 2016.

Tanpipat, V. and Ratanasuwan, A., Thailand Fire emissions: Activity Data & Emission Factors for an integrated, scalable system-Methods and Utility, “Moving on From Experimental Approaches to Advancing National Systems for Measuring and Monitoring Forest Degradation Across Asia,” A LEDS Global Partnership Regional Workshop hosted by the AFOLU Working Group, Bangkok, Thailand, 16 - 18 June, presentation, 2015a.

Tanpipat, V., Brewer, K., Albury, C., Practical Training on Estimating Fire Emissions in Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Training Workshop, 27-29 January 2015b.

Tanpipat, V., Thailand Fire Danger Rating System, Forest Fire Control Division, National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, 2011a.

Tanpipat, V., Forest fire monitoring system by remote sensing technology, Forest Fire Control Division, National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, 2011b.

Tanpipat, V., Near Real Time Burn Scars Detection in Thailand Using Terra MODIS data in Dry Dipterocarp and Mixed Deciduous Forest, ISBN: 978-3-8433-8394-3, LAMBERT Academic Publishing, www.inigimage.com, Germany, 2010.

Tanpipat, V., and Akaakara, S. Thailand forest fire monitoring by RS/GIS - current situation, needs and ongoing activities; ASEAN-GERMAN Technical Cooperation - Clean Air for Cities in the ASEAN Region: Technical input for the implementation of the national management plan on open burning smoke haze control; 17th December, Bangkok, Thailand 2010.

Tanpipat, V., Honda, K., and Nuchaiya, P., MODIS Hotspot Validation over Thailand, Remote Sensing; Issue 4, December 2009, pp. 1043-1054, ISSN 2072-4292, www.mdpi.com/journal/remote sensing, 2009.

Tanpipat, V., Forest fire risk areas by MODIS hotspots, Forest Fire Control Division, National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, 2008.

Tanpipat, V. and Honda, K., Near Real Time Burn Scar Detection in Dry Dipterocarp and Mixed Deciduous Forest of Thailand by Using MODIS on Board TERRA Satellite, MODIS Working Group, Bangkok, Thailand 2005.

Tanpipat, V. and Honda, K., Fire Calibration/Validation activities and plans for the Huai-Kha-Keang Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand, Global Observation of Forest Cover (GOFC): Fire S. E. Asia Fire Cal/Val Workshop, A special session of the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN), Earth Monitoring Working Group, Phuket, Thailand 2004.

Tanpipat, V. and Honda, K., Remote sensing of forest fire field experiments, GOFC Fire S.E. Asia Regional Workshop of the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) Earth Monitoring and Disaster Warning Group (EM-WG) Fukuoka, Japan 2003.

Tanpipat, V. and Honda, K., Forest Fire Experiment toward the Detection of Forest Fire using RS – Thermal and Reflectance Environment Change Observation at Ground Level, International Symposium on Remote Sensing: 18th Fall Symposium of KSRS, 11th Annual Workshop of EMSEA 8th KOMPSAT-1 Application Workshop, 5th Korea-China Workshop on SITASuD, Sokcho, Korea 2002.

Tanpipat, V., DETECTION OF SE ASIA ACTIVE FIRES AT NIGHT USING DMSP-OLS DATA, SEA Southeast Asia Regional Global Observation of Forest Cover Planning Meeting, Bogor, Indonesia, 31 January - 2 February 2000.

Wang, J., Ge, C., Yang, Z., Hyer, W. J., Reid, J. S., Chew, B-N., Mahmud, M., Zhang, Y., Zhang M., Mesoscale modeling of smoke transport over the Southeast Asian Maritime Continent: Interplay of sea breeze, trade wind, typhoon, and topography, Atmospheric Research, 2012.

Wanthongchai, K., Bauhus, J.G., Goldammer, J.G. 2008. Nutrient losses through prescribed burning of aboveground litter and understorey in dry dipterocarp forests of different fire history. Catena.74: 321-332.

Wanthongchai, K., Goldammer, J.G., 2008. Fire management in South Asia dry forest: Colonial approach, current problems, and perspectives. In FORTROP II International Conference “Tropical Forestry Change in a Changing World”. 17-21 November, Bangkok, Thailand

Wanthongchai, K., J.G. Goldammer and J. Bauhus.  2011.  Effects of fire frequency on prescribed fire behaviour and soil temperatures in dry dipterocarp forests.  International Journal of Wildland Fire 20(1): 35-45.

Wanthongchai K, Tarusadamrongdet  V , Chinnawong K  and Sooksawat K. 2013. Fuel properties and fire behaviour characteristics of prescribed fire in pine-dominated forests at Nam Nao National Park, Thailand. International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(5): 615-624

Wanthongchai K, Bauhus J. and Goldammer JG. 2014. Effects of Past Burning Frequency on Woody Plant Structure and Composition in Dry Dipterocarp Forest. Thai J.For. 33 (3): 109-130.

Wiriya , K. 2009. Fuel Model and Fire Behavior Prediction in Dry Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest at Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sancetuary, Uthai Thani Province. Ph.D. Thesis , Kasetsart University.

Yadav, I. C., Davi, N. L., Li, J., Syed, J. H., Zhang, G. Watanabe, H., Biomass burning in Indo-China peninsula and its impacts on regional air quality and global climate change-a review, Environment Pollution, 2017.

Yokelson et al., Field measurements of trace gases and aerosols emitted by peat fires in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, during the 2015 El Niño, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 2016