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Discussion: JWOC22 -Wildfires and forest closures.

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 8, 2022 11:02 PM # 
Due to high heat up to possible 107 degrees and extreame wildfire danger; as well as a fire in the Guarda region moving with unpredictable winds in our direction the forests in the area of Aguiar de Beira are forbidden to enter. JWOC has been majorly affected. The opening ceremonies and sprint will happen, but middle quals and finals and long distance forest races are canceled. We are waiting to hear more.

Obviously most athletes and coaches have return flights and our accommodations run out after JWOC, so any postponement is difficult and costly to accommodate for most teams but especially for those of us overseas. We are trying to figure out logistics and see if any athletes can stay if they postpone races. This is an additional expense after many have spent thousands to be here. As you can imagine we have a group of youth that have been working so hard on very difficult maps and detailed forest navigation in preparation. They are heartbroken. For many this is their last year of eligibility after two years of covid cancellations and last yea’rs event falling right as school began for most. This group has continually been hit hard. Send good thoughts for these athletes and the organizers that they can in two to three days recreate an entire JWOC and provide some events even if mostly sprint based.

We obviously are working to make sure everyone stays safe first and will keep an eye on local fires and if needed discuss preparation measures should they get closer. For now the fires are not close or threatening our local area or hotel. The sky is clear no smoke and not even close to what we experienced in Tahoe last August.

We will try to make this a fun memorable experience and ultimately every athlete gained significant skills in this pre JWOC traning camp facilitated by the very capable Evalin Baugtiman and Thomas Laria. We will keep you updated.

Official letter from JWOC organizers.

Aguiar da Beira, 2022-07-08, 20h30
Total ban on forest access in Portugal
Due to extreme risk of fire, that has developed over the last couple of days resulting in multiple forest fires in various parts of Portugal, the Portuguese government has issued a total ban on access to its forests starting on Friday 8th July – and so far lasting until Friday 15th July.
This has serious impact on the Junior World Orienteering Championships. The JWOC organisers and local government, police and firefighters have worked closely together to be allowed to stage the JWOC forest distances as planned, but unfortunately we have got the final message, that this will not be allowed. This means that the JWOC forest distances will be postponed to a time after the above mentioned period.
As a result of the ban, all training and other activities in the forest is strictly forbidden.
The JWOC Sprint will be organised as planned and the IOF and the JWOC organisers are currently working together to organise additional JWOC sprint competitions during the JWOC week. Information about this will be given as soon as the deciding bodies within the IOF has made a decision about this.
This means that the JWOC accreditation, sprint model event, opening and Team official meeting on Sunday will go on as planned and more information about the rest of the week will be given at the latest at this Team Officials Meeting.
The IOF will be represented by the SEA and ASEA in the Event Center both on Saturday (9h00-14h00) and Sunday (11h00 until Team officials meeting) to answer questions. The IOF SEA will also be available for the teams on telephone and e-mail as stated for the SEA below.
Rafael Miguel – Event Director
Helge Lang Pedersen – Senior Event Advisor (SEA) - +45 5123 1821,
Jul 9, 2022 3:54 AM # 
That's terrible. It looks like we'll have a sprint JWOC following sprint WOC.
Jul 9, 2022 4:46 AM # 
WOW! This totally sucks.

I'm curious as to how close / far the competition areas are to actual fires -- and how that distance compares to the proximity of last year's Tahoe events to the fires out there.

It wasn't mentioned, but, presumably the Relay was also cancelled. Perhaps a Sprint Relay (using forest relay format) could substitute.
Jul 9, 2022 5:10 AM # 
Relay is scheduled for the 16th, and closure " far lasting until Friday 15th..."
Jul 9, 2022 5:46 AM # 
We had national level events cancelled back in 2018 due to extreme fire danger. There were no fires anywhere near the area and it wasn't even hot (it was the wind that produced the supposed fire risk) but the permit for the events stated they'd be cancelled in 'extreme fire risk' and it just happened to be the two days for the events - none either side but it was the weekend and people had come from all over Australia so they didn't get to ride. Events were rescheduled to later in the year where the majority of participants outside of the state didn't return (too expensive, too much hassle, etc).

I feel the pain of JWOC participants missing out for the third (and possibly their final) year in a row.
Jul 9, 2022 6:03 AM # 
From the forecast, I think the chances that the closure will extend beyond the 15th are high.
Jul 9, 2022 6:50 AM # 
The temps keep going up for the week we are hearing as high as 107. so it’s very likely the relay might get canceled as well but right now it’s outside the closure dates On a 11k course over tons of rocky areas I was already super concerned for the athletes most would take 2 plus hours to complete that course. That heat gets dangerous at race pace. High winds are a problem apparently it can move a fit fast. Having a bunch of athletes spread over 11k of course if a fire ripped through us obviously a concern. We had not heard much about fires while here so it’s not like there is one burning outside of town. So this really caught us by surprise. We’ve seen one little plume of smoke a long ways away but didn’t think much about it. Apparently conditions are going to be perfect for some fires to happen easily.

We also had a lightning storm a few days ago which may have caused some area fires.
Jul 9, 2022 6:51 AM # 
Those from Seattle had about 4-5 days above 70 degrees this entire year and jumped straight into the heat. It’s rough.
Jul 9, 2022 6:55 AM # 
They now need to think twice before organising any major orienteering event in Mediterranean forests in the summer.
Jul 9, 2022 6:56 AM # 
Jul 9, 2022 6:59 AM # 

That’s the fire risk map from the us embassy
Jul 9, 2022 2:53 PM # 
+1 willemspie, winter is the time for doing orienteering in Portugal.

PS: good news from Alabama --no fire danger, real-feel temperatures are comfortable 100-105 for the whole week now ;)
Jul 9, 2022 8:55 PM # 
Current Birmingham temp is 98F feels like 112F. Yeah, it's toasty down here at TWG Plaza...
Jul 9, 2022 10:00 PM # 

It is much cooler on the trails in Red Mountain park, relative to downtown. I really do not know the reason of this difference, but it is very noticeable in mid-summer. Could be open mines that bring cold air from deep under.
Jul 9, 2022 11:16 PM # 
It’s all the kudzu acting as a heat shield against the sun, actually doing some good in the world.
Jul 10, 2022 2:38 AM # 
There are probably few who remember this detail, but the fire risk in Harriman State Park in the summer of 1993 was so high that the park was closed to all off-road activities (the beaches and the picnic areas were still open). So the WOC93 course-setting team was not allowed to go out into the woods. We did anyway, making sure that nobody was looking when we sprinted just far enough to be out of sight, then continued at a normal pace to do whatever it was we needed to do that day. The event itself was never really in danger, as we (correctly) assumed that the fire risk would have abated by October. And we had an expert on our team -- one of the vetters worked for the NYC fire department.
Jul 10, 2022 2:47 AM # 
Last summer it happened here in Washington too. Actually, I had setup a few courses for the kids to train on to get ready for JWOC in Salmon La Sac by putting out a bunch of pin flags. Then the next week when we were supposed to train there, they shut down the entire forest because of wildfire danger, making all of my work useless. That is until THIS year when I took them back out there to train for this JWOC, and all of my pin flags were still there:). A 1 year delayed payoff:).
Jul 10, 2022 2:56 AM # 
Well, 'hats off' to the JWOC organizers who are now offering a sprint relay as part of the program!
Jul 10, 2022 3:35 AM # 
I certainly haven't forgotten JJ's WOC93 fire risk-forest closure memory, but as nightmarish as that was, I'd rather deal with that again, as a scofflaw, than face what the JWOC22 participants, and organizers, are dealing with.
Jul 10, 2022 8:10 AM # 
It is a bit odd not allowing the JWOC races to go ahead as an exception to the ban. I assume the ban is mainly directed at random punters who might cause a serious fire by smoking / barbecuing / whatever, but surely a safe way could be found for 200 junior runners not to cause a fire?

The health risk to athletes is a different story to be managed separately through shorter courses or drinks stations or whatever.
Jul 10, 2022 8:30 AM # 
There's also the difficulty of evacuating athletes scattered across a large area of forest if a fire starts during the race, which is trickier to manage.
Jul 10, 2022 8:37 AM # 
That is a terrific effort by the JWOC organisers in difficult circumstances. It comes so soon after their Portugal O-meeting 2022 was also cancelled at short notice, and they scurried to put together an alternative programme in a different part of the country.
Jul 10, 2022 10:10 AM # 
Arnold, if a fire started during the race by causes other than someone smoking, barbecuing or whatever, then the organisers would be held liable for whatever happened. Fires aren't just started by people making them intentionally or accidentally.
Jul 10, 2022 4:50 PM # 
I don't know how the Portuguese fire danger categories map to those used in Australia, but a major reason why we would not go ahead in the highest category of fire danger is that when fire weather is at that level of severity, there is a risk that any fire that starts (a) will move faster than walking speed and (b) will generate spot fires some distance (potentially kilometres) ahead of the main front - both are obvious and severe risks to competitor safety. You generally don't get that sort of fire behaviour under less severe fire weather conditions.

Although I haven't heard, I suspect that an exception which has been made is to allow the organisers to go in early - you wouldn't be able to consider running an event on the 16th if you were not able to put out controls earlier than that.
Jul 10, 2022 5:40 PM # 
Here in the UK we obviously live sheltered lives as fires are not normally an issue in event planning (although it's insanely hot at the moment, but no big events are planned anyway.)

We also have no rattlesnakes or insane drivers [see WMOC] although we do get a lot of mud and rain from January to April (which can wreak havoc with parking fields) and an average number of angry landowners and people with dangerous looking dogs.
Jul 10, 2022 7:03 PM # 
@ Blair: Portugal mainly uses the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System.
Jul 10, 2022 8:20 PM # 
@Arnold: I agree UK has an awful climate. It rains way too much there. In short, I can say America is so much more awesome than Britain
Jul 10, 2022 9:53 PM # 
IF only:
Good luck to all the JWOC athletes adjusting to unexpected circumstances and racing in the heat. Also this must be super challenging for the organizers, so I agree with upnorthguy - hats off to them.
Jul 11, 2022 1:19 AM # 
The other side of the fire risk issue - prescribed burning. We only discovered by accident that a burn was planned for the time of the 2002 WMOC qualifiers in the competition area. This was despite the permit for the event having been issues by the same department. The discovery was because someone who worked in the same building and was negotiating an entirely different permit happened to see a burn plan on a nearby screen. Left-hand right-hand issues. Communication about burning plans has improved since then.
Jul 11, 2022 10:10 AM # 
Oh wow, that sounds "fun". But... can you expand a bit what this "prescribed burning" is used for? I remember many years ago I heard that some countries used fire to burn a "donor" crop of farm-land which would initiate a kind of new cycle of cultivation (sorry, I'm not a farmer, can't explain it properly I'm sure), but this practice was banned a few years ago due to environmental targets (mainly CO2 reduction I guess) and also the risk of the fire spreading out of hand. But... what would a prescribed burning of forest be useful for?
Jul 11, 2022 10:23 AM # 
Fuel reduction burning, to prevent wildfires from killing the people who live near* the forests.

*or, 50km away if the wind is moving fast...
Jul 11, 2022 10:32 AM # 
Of course, sometimes such burns have been known to go wrong, as New Mexico has been finding out over the last three months.
Jul 11, 2022 11:23 AM # 
In some cases, at least, the notion is that, left to themselves, forests occasionally catch fire, and there are some plants that have evolved to reproduce in the wake of a fire, and some smaller plants thrive on ash-rich soil. And some trees can survive a typical fire just fine. For example, some seed cones only open when subjected to high temperatures. So allowing the forest to burn once in a while (as opposed to suppressing all fires) can be healthy for it. But yeah, things don't always go as planned.
Jul 11, 2022 4:21 PM # 
There is certainly more fuels on landscape since Indigenous cultural burning was removed from the landscape. Hence the need to return good fire to the landscape. This is especially important as there is a lot more available and connected fuels on the landscape also because they are often much drier (ie available for ignition or spread/propagation). This increases fire severity and possibility of a mega fire.

Our sport needs to increasingly be aware of and be prepared for extreme weather events be it temps, wind, floods, wildfire etc.

Kudos to the JWOc race organizers for making changes.
Jul 13, 2022 8:06 AM # 
Indeed. Watching the sprint relay now. With the Per Forsberg sound-alike:-))
Jul 13, 2022 8:24 AM # 
He's called!
He's called Bruno!
Jul 13, 2022 8:32 AM # 
Great relay race with lots of route choices.
Fantastic TV production helped enormously by tracking that worked!
Jul 13, 2022 8:36 AM # 
Don't forget to give that "Donate"-button a big hug! :-)
Jul 13, 2022 8:39 AM # 
(And as soon as todays race is over, we're going to Fridays relay-arena to dig a trench for the fibre needed to send the stream out to the world... from a butchers shop a few hundred metres away :-O)
Jul 13, 2022 8:45 AM # 
Thanks Bruno. And jSh. I will look forward to Friday's O-meat.
Jul 13, 2022 9:52 AM # 
Haha, Sir Loin, can I have a slice of your humour there?
Jul 13, 2022 9:56 AM # 
(Another background story: the webmaster of works for one of the Portuguese ISPs - and so he could check where the closest existing fibre access to the arena is. Of course it came as no surprise that the butcher had the beefiest internet access in the neighbourhood...)
Jul 13, 2022 2:19 PM # 
Friday isn't currently scheduled on the IOF Live page though I've got my own concerns on that day to keep me busy.
Jul 13, 2022 2:55 PM # 
I fully appreciate the efforts of the JWOC organizers digging in this heat this afternoon. It was 100 degrees when I finished around 1PM.

You can also find GPS tracking and video links from the JWOC event homepage under the LIVECENTER menu option.
Jul 15, 2022 7:31 AM # 
OK the relay is under way. If you see any more comments about meat don't read them. It's spam.
Jul 15, 2022 8:05 AM # 
Oh dear. Those runners with missing punches will be absolutely gutted!
Jul 15, 2022 10:13 AM # 
Aww, we don't get to watch the coach race?
Jul 15, 2022 10:23 AM # 
Some very nice urban racing this week on quite small areas. With only a few artificial barriers I thought the route choice was good. I was even able to have a stab at what I would do in real time. Oh I know what helped - no multi-level puzzles.
Jul 15, 2022 10:37 AM # 
There was just a hint of multi-level at control 45 today (entry and exit of the old-peoples home), but it worked out OK.
Jul 15, 2022 11:42 AM # 
Incidentally, Pinhao (about 30km north of Aguiar da Beira, but at a significantly lower altitude) reached 47.0 degrees yesterday, a July record for Portugal.

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