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The Northwest Fire Science Consortium works to accelerate the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science. We connect managers, practitioners, scientists, and local communities and collaboratives working on fire issues on forest and range lands in Washington and Oregon.

Learn more about NWFSC...

JFSP Regions


NWFSC is one of
fifteen regional exchanges
sponsored by the Joint Fire Science Program.

Hot Topics

Contrasting Spatial Patterns in Active-Fire and Fire- Suppressed Mediterranean Climate Old-Growth Mixed Conifer Forests

Authored by D.L. Fry; Published 2014

In Mediterranean environments in western North America, historic fire regimes in frequent-fire conifer forests are highly variable both temporally and spatially. This complexity influenced forest structure and spatial patterns, but some of this diversity has been lost due to anthropogenic disruption of ecosystem processes, including fire. Information from reference forest sites can help management efforts to restore forests conditions that may be more resilient to future changes in disturbance regimes and climate. In this study, we characterize tree spatial patterns using four-ha stem maps from four oldgrowth, Jeffrey pine-mixed conifer forests, two with active-fire regimes in northwestern Mexico and two that experienced fire exclusion in the southern Sierra Nevada. Most of the trees were in patches, averaging six to 11 trees per patch at 0.007 to 0.014 ha21, and occupied 27–46% of the study areas. Average canopy gap sizes (0.04 ha) covering 11–20% of the area were not significantly different among sites. The putative main effects of fire exclusion were higher densities of single trees in smaller size classes, larger proportion of trees ($56%) in large patches ($10 trees), and decreases in spatial complexity. While a homogenization of forest structure has been a typical result from fire exclusion, some similarities in patch, single
tree, and gap attributes were maintained at these sites. These within-stand descriptions provide spatially relevant
benchmarks from which to manage for structural heterogeneity in frequent-fire forest types.

Alternative characterization of forest fire regimes: incorporating spatial patterns

Authored by B.M. Collins; Published 2017

The proportion of fire area that experienced stand-replacing fire effects is an important attribute of individual fires and fire regimes in forests, and this metric has been used to group forest types into characteristic fire regimes. However, relying on proportion alone ignores important spatial characteristics of stand-replacing patches, which can have a strong influence on post-fire vegetation dynamics. We propose a new more ecologically relevant approach for characterizing spatial patterns of stand-replacing patches to account for potential limitation of conifer seed dispersal. We applied a simple modified logistic function to describe the relationship between the proportion of total stand-replacing patch area and an interior buffer distance on stand-replacing patches. This approach robustly distinguishes among different spatial configurations of stand-replacing area in both theoretical and actual fires, and does so uniquely from commonly used descriptors of spatial configuration. Our function can be calculated for multiple fires over a given area, allowing for meaningful ecological comparisons of stand-replacing effects among different fires and regions.

Fall and spring grazing influence fire ignitability and initial spread in shrub steppe communities

Authored by K.W. Davies; Published 2017

The interaction between grazing and fire influences ecosystems around the world. However, little is known about the influence of grazing on fire, in particular ignition and initial spread and how it varies by grazing management differences. We investigated effects of fall (autumn) grazing, spring grazing and not grazing on fuel characteristics, fire ignition and initial spread during the wildfire season (July and August) at five shrub steppe sites in Oregon, USA. Both grazing treatments decreased fine fuel biomass, cover and height, and increased fuel moisture, and thereby decreased ignition and initial spread compared with the ungrazed treatment. However, effects differed between fall and spring grazing. The probability of initial spread was 6-fold greater in the fall-grazed compared with the spring-grazed treatment in August. This suggests that spring grazing may have a greater effect on fires than fall grazing, likely because fall grazing does not influence the current year’s plant growth. Results of this study also highlight that the grazing–fire interaction will vary by grazing management. Grazing either the fall or spring before the wildfire season reduces the probability of fire propagation and, thus, grazing is a potential fuel management tool.

Prescribed Burning in Ponderosa Pine: Fuel Reductions and Redistributing Fuels near Boles to Prevent Injury

Authored by R.A. Progar; Published 2017

Fire suppression and other factors have resulted in high wildfire risk in the western US, and prescribed burning can be an effective tool for thinning forests and reducing fuels to lessen wildfire risks. However, prescribed burning sometimes fails to substantially reduce fuels and sometimes damages and kills valuable, large trees. This study compared fuel reductions between spring and fall prescribed burns and tested whether removing (i.e., raking) fuels within 1 m of boles reduced fire damage to ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex Lawson & C. Lawson). In 2007 and 2008, raking was applied to alternating trees along 18 transects in central Oregon, USA. Fuels surrounding 292 trees were burned in fall 2010, and fuels surrounding 216 trees were burned in spring 2012. Both seasons of burn affected most fuel size classes similarly, with one exception being duff, which was more fully consumed in fall than in spring. Where fall burning occurred, raking reduced the percentage of dead cambium samples from 24.3 ±4.9 % to 6.4 ±3.0 % (point estimates ±95 % confidence intervals), in addition to reducing bole scorch. Conversely, where spring burning occurred, injury of not-raked trees was milder, so raking did not have the potential to greatly reduce damage. Redistributing fuels away from boles would be more beneficial under relatively dry conditions when duff is prone to extensive smoldering. Our study and most other studies suggest that duff is, on average, drier in fall than in spring, so raking would tend to afford more protection from fall burns than from spring burns. The little tree mortality that occurred was split nearly evenly between raked trees (25) and not-raked trees (30), so raking did not appreciably increase survival in this study. However, the finding that raking reduced injury suggests that it may reduce mortality from more intense burns.

Fire Prevention Education Teams: Lessons Learned from the 2016 Appalachian Wildfires

What will you learn?
Fire Prevention Education Teams (FPET) work with state and local partners to reduce unwanted human-generated fires through various education and outreach activities. During the 2016 Appalachian wildfires, inter-agency FPETs successfully reached approximately 6.68 million people and saved an estimated $11 million through fire prevention efforts. This webinar highlights the methods and lessons learned from this effort. learn more here...

Paul Gellerstadt, Cooperative Fire, All-Hazard and Prevention Program Manager, US Forest Service, Southern Region
Terri Jenkins, Fire Management Specialist, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Education Credits from the following organizations continuing education programs have been approved or applied for:
Georgia Master Timber Harvester - 1 hour CLE Continuing Logger Ed Credit    [status: Applied For]
New York Logger Training - .25 hour NYLT TLC Credit    [status: Applied For]
Society of American Foresters - 1 hour Category 1 Credit    [status: Applied For]

Get instructions on how to obtain Continuing Education Credits.

Session Details:
Jul 10, 2017 11:00 am US/Eastern     Duration: 01:00 (hh:mm)     Export Event To Calendar
*** Please join the session 15 minutes prior to the start of the webinar. ***

This webinar will be recorded and posted back to the Webinar Portal for on-demand viewing within a week. CEUs are available for on-demand webinars when applicable.

Who should participate?
Fire Professionals
Natural Resource Professionals
News/ Media

An outlook for the 2017 fire season in WA and OR

Webinar from Northwest Fire Science Consortium & WA DNR

Josh Clark, Meterologist for the Washington DNR presented, An outlook for the 2017 fire season in WA and OR.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel

Plant community response to prescribed fire varies by pre-fire condition and season of burn in mountain big sagebrush ecosystems

Authored by L.M. Ellsworth; Published 2017

Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana ecosystems evolved with periodic fire, but invasive grasses, conifer encroachment, fire suppression, and climate change have resulted in altered fire regimes and plant communities. Post-fire increases in invasive annual grasses such as Bromus tectorum and reductions in native vegetation are common across the sagebrush steppe. Where fire has been excluded though, there are increases in the native tree Juniperus occidentalis, which outcompetes the native understory. We applied prescribed fire in spring and fall at three sites (native-dominated, B. tectorum-dominated, and J. occidentalis-dominated). We documented 65% survival of A. tridentata following fall burns and 33% survival following spring burns in native-dominated plots, with evidence of post-fire sprouting in Purshia tridentata and Tetradymia canescens. At the B. tectorum-dominated site, shrub cover was reduced to <1%. Fires at the J. occidentalis site were discontinuous, resulting in ∼50% mortality of trees and shrubs, with little resprouting. Native herbaceous vegetation persisted following fires, with no increases in B. tectorum. There were higher plant survival rates following fall fires and native-dominated sites than in spring burns or where exotics dominated. These results show that burn season and prefire condition are important considerations when evaluating management alternatives in A. tridentata ssp. vaseyana ecosystems.

Airborne measurements of western U.S. wildfire emissions: Comparison with prescribed burning and air quality implications

Authored by X. Liu; Published 2017

Wildfires emit significant amounts of pollutants that degrade air quality. Plumes from three wildfires in the western U.S. were measured from aircraft during the Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys (SEAC4RS) and the Biomass Burning Observation Project (BBOP), both in summer 2013. This study reports an extensive set of emission factors (EFs) for over 80 gases and 5 components of submicron particulate matter (PM1) from these temperate wildfires. These include rarely, or never before, measured oxygenated volatile organic compounds and multifunctional organic nitrates. The observed EFs are compared with previous measurements of temperate wildfires, boreal forest fires, and temperate prescribed fires. The wildfires emitted high amounts of PM1 (with organic aerosol (OA) dominating the mass) with an average EF that is more than 2 times the EFs for prescribed fires. The measured EFs were used to estimate the annual wildfire emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, total nonmethane organic compounds, and PM1 from 11 western U.S. states. The estimated gas emissions are generally comparable with the 2011 National Emissions Inventory (NEI). However, our PM1 emission estimate (1530 ± 570 Gg yr−1) is over 3 times that of the NEI PM2.5 estimate and is also higher than the PM2.5 emitted from all other sources in these states in the NEI. This study indicates that the source of OA from biomass burning in the western states is significantly underestimated. In addition, our results indicate that prescribed burning may be an effective method to reduce fine particle emissions.

Returning Fire to the Land—Celebrating Traditional Knowledge and Fire

Authored by F.K. Lake; Published 2017

North American tribes have traditional knowledge about fire effects on ecosystems, habitats, and resources. For millennia, tribes have used fire to promote valued resources. Sharing our collective understanding of fire, derived from traditional and western knowledge systems, can benefit landscapes and people. We organized two workshops to investigate how traditional and western knowledge can be used to enhance wildland fire and fuels management and research. We engaged tribal members, managers, and researchers to formulate solutions regarding the main topics identified as important to tribal and other land managers: cross-jurisdictional work, fuels reduction strategies, and wildland fire management and research involving traditional knowledge. A key conclusion from the workshops is that successful management of wildland fire and fuels requires collaborative partnerships that share traditional and western fire knowledge through culturally sensitive consultation, coordination, and communication for building trust. We present a framework for developing these partnerships based on workshop discussions.

Improving forest sampling strategies for assessment of fuel reduction burning

Authored by M. Gharun; Published 2017

Land managers typically make post hoc assessments of the effectiveness of fuel reduction burning (FRB), but often lack a rigorous sampling framework. A general, but untested, assumption is that variability in soil and fuel properties increases from small (∼1 m) to large spatial scales (∼10–100 km). Based on a recently published field-based sampling scheme, we addressed the following questions: (i) How much variability is captured in measurements collected at different spatial scales? (ii) What is the optimal number of sampling plots required for statistically robust characterisation of burnt areas? (iii) How can land managers improve their assessment of the effectiveness of FRB? We found that measurement variability does not increase with scale for all fuel components. Results showed that coarse woody debris is as variable at the small scale (plot, m) as it is at the landscape scale (km). For certain fuel components, such as litter biomass (in unburnt areas), overstorey biomass and leaf area, and soil properties such as total carbon and total nitrogen, samples taken at the small (plot) scale were indicative of variation at the larger scale of an individual FRB and more broadly across the landscape.

We then tested the hypothesis that site stratification can reduce variability between sampling plots and as a consequence will reduce the required number of sampling plots. To test this hypothesis we used Landsat Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) across areas treated with FRB and compared the number of sampling plots required to estimate mean fuel biomass with and without stratification. Stratification of burnt areas using remotely sensed vegetation indices reduced the number of sampling plots required. We provide a model of green biomass from Landsat NDVI and make recommendations on how sampling schemes can be improved for assessment of fuel reduction burning.

Effects of climate change on snowpack and fire potential in the western USA

Authored by D.R. Gergel; Published 2017

We evaluate the implications of ten twenty-first century climate scenarios for snow, soil moisture, and fuel moisture across the conterminous western USA using the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrology model. A decline in mountain snowpack, an advance in the timing of spring melt, and a reduction in snow season are projected for five mountain ranges in the region. For the southernmost range (the White Mountains), spring snow at most elevations will disappear by the end of the twenty-first century. We investigate soil and fuel moisture changes for the five mountain ranges and for six lowland regions. The accelerated depletion of mountain snowpack due to warming leads to reduced summer soil moisture across mountain environments. Similarly, warmer and drier summers lead to decreases of up to 25% in dead fuel moisture across all mountain ranges. Collective declines in spring mountain snowpack, summer soil moisture, and fuel moisture across western mountain ranges will increase fire potential in flammability-limited forested systems where fuels are not limiting. Projected changes in fire potential in predominately fuel-limited systems at lower elevations are more uncertain given the confounding signals between projected changes in soil moisture and fuel moisture.

Rangeland Fire Protection Associations in Oregon and Idaho: Implications for Fire Adaptation and Agency-Community Relationships

Webinar from Northwest Fire Science Consortium

Jesse Abrams, Research Associate with Ecosystem Workforce Program, Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon and Dr. Emily Jane Davis, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist with Oregon State University presented, Rangeland Fire Protection Associations in Oregon and Idaho: Implications for Fire Adaptation and Agency-Community Relationships.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel


Community Vulnerability to Health Impacts of Wildland Fire Smoke Exposure

Authored by A.G. Rappold; Published 2017

Identifying communities vulnerable to adverse health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke may help prepare responses, increase the resilience to smoke and improve public health outcomes during smoke days. We developed a Community Health-Vulnerability Index (CHVI) based on factors known to increase the risks of health effects from air pollution and wildfire smoke exposures. These factors included county prevalence rates for asthma in children and adults, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, percent of population 65 years of age and older, and indicators of socioeconomic status including poverty, education, income and unemployment. Using air quality simulated for the period between 2008 and 2012 over the continental U.S. we also characterized the population size at risk with respect to the level and duration of exposure to fire-originated fine particulate matter (fire-PM2.5) and CHVI. We estimate that 10% of the population (30.5 million) lived in the areas where the contribution of fire-PM2.5 to annual average ambient PM2.5 was high (>1.5 μg/m3) and that 10.3 million individuals experienced unhealthy air quality levels for more than 10 days due to smoke. Using CHVI we identified the most vulnerable counties and determined that these communities experience more smoke exposures in comparison to less vulnerable communities.

Cascadia Prescribed Fire Training Exchange

Participants in this central Washington TREX will engage in hands-on training in the ecology of fire-adapted ecosystems, communications and community outreach, prescribed fire monitoring, operational assignments, prescribed fire use, and collaboration among a diverse array of participating individuals and organizations. Applications are due July 10.
Information: details are on the Washington Prescribed Fire Council’s website  

A Compendium of Brief Summaries of Smoke Science Research In Support of the Joint Fire Science Program Smoke Science Plan

Authored by C.M. Huber; D.G. Fox; A.R. Riebau; Published 2017

Introduction --- The Smoke Science Plan (SSP) and Brief Project Summaries
During the course of the Joint Fire Program Smoke Science Plan’s five-year duration, 41 research projects came under its umbrella. Each of these projects whether funded under the plan or funded before it began, were managed to further the four themes of the plan and each theme’s objectives. The SSP themes and their objectives are:
• The objective of the Smoke Emissions Inventory Research Theme is to develop science and knowledge needed to improve national wildland fire emissions inventories, paving the way for the design of a national consensus inventory system.
• The objective of the Fire and Smoke Model Validation Theme is to identify the scientific scope, techniques and partnerships needed to objectively validate smoke and fire models using field data.
• The objectives of the Populations and Smoke Theme are to quantify the impact of wildland fire smoke on population centers and on fire fighters, and to elucidate the mechanisms of public smoke acceptance in light of the needed balance between human smoke exposure risk and ecosystem health risk. Ultimately this is envisioned to help in the development of a national smoke hazard warning system/methodology based on best science.
• The objectives of the Smoke and Climate Change Theme are to better understand implications of climate change on wildland fire smoke and of wildland fire smoke on climate change using UN IPCC future climate scenarios for guidance (IPCC, 2013).

In this document readers will find concise summary statements for each of the projects under the SSP. These statements were prepared for the JFSP for use in guiding the program’s ‘smoke line of work’ or smoke research portfolio. They are not inclusive of everything that might be reported about each of the research projects, but they do provide the reader with a concise place to begin determining what research has been done and more importantly, what results may address their needs. This compendium of brief summaries is arranged by JFSP SSP theme. All are either summaries of project final reports (where available) or summaries of responses submitted (March 2017) by project principal investigators. All JFSP project final reports can be found at WWW.FIRESCIENCE.GOV.

After the Fire Workshop: Connecting People, Ideas and Organizations

Authored by F.Learning Network; Published 2017

Fire adaptation is about more than pre-fire work. It’s also about considering the needs of a community and the land post-fire. In Washington State, the last several fire seasons have given communities lots of opportunities to learn about post-fire recovery. Last month, members of organizations that work on community issues, landscape resilience and disaster-recovery gathered to share some of the things they’ve learned.

EPA Tools and Resources Webinar: Public Health Impact of Wildfire Smoke Emissions

Dr. Wayne Cascio, an EPA scientist and physician, will present the webinar “Public Health Impact of Wildfire Smoke Emissions” on June 21 from 3-4 p.m. ET. The webinar will provide updates to the Wildfire Smoke: Guide for Public Health Officials, as well as the Smoke Sense app that gets air quality information to people impacted by wildfire smoke and helps those affected learn ways to protect their health from smoke exposure. The app will be used in a study to determine effective health risk communications strategies to educate people impacted by wildfire smoke.

To join the webinar, please register:


If you are unable to listen through your computer speakers, please dial: 1-866-299-3188. Access Code: 202-564-6669. Telephone lines are limited and muted during the webinar.

Learn more.

Read the 2016 Wildfire Smoke Guide.

California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) habitat use patterns in a burned landscape.

Authored by S.A. Eyes; Published 2017

Fire is a dynamic ecosystem process of mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, but there is limited scientific information addressing wildlife habitat use in burned landscapes. Recent studies have presented contradictory information regarding the effects of stand-replacing wildfires on Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis) and their habitat. While fire promotes heterogeneous forest landscapes shown to be favored by owls, high severity fire may create large canopy gaps that can fragment the closed-canopy habitat preferred by Spotted Owls. We used radio-telemetry to determine whether foraging California Spotted Owls (S. o. occidentalis) in Yosemite National Park, California, USA, showed selection for particular fire severity patch types within their home ranges. Our results suggested that Spotted Owls exhibited strong habitat selection within their home ranges for locations near the roost and edge habitats, and weak selection for lower fire severity patch types. Although owls selected high contrast edges with greater relative probabilities than low contrast edges, we did not detect a statistical difference between these probabilities. Protecting forests from stand-replacing fires via mechanical thinning or prescribed fire is a priority for management agencies, and our results suggest that fires of low to moderate severity can create habitat conditions within California Spotted Owls' home ranges that are favored for foraging.