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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

Fire Adapted Cities: Prescribed Fire Use in Urban & Community Forest Management


Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Division Program Manager, Austin Fire Department, Austin, Texas

Mike Wharton, Operations Administrator, Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services, Athens, Georgia

Webinar Presentation Abstract

Prescribed fire is an effective forest and range management tool used to reduce wildfire fuels, manage understory vegetation, and restore/ manage ecosystems. Despite its utility, it is less commonly utilized in urban and community forest management. This webinar will present two southern case studies that have successfully used prescribed fire within city limits. Speakers will outline project goals, ecological objectives, critical partnerships, community outreach and education, technology and training, and lessons learned essential to the success of utilizing prescribed fire in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

This is a free webinar, but registration is required.

Soil heating during the complete combustion of mega-logs and broadcast burning in central Oregon USA pumice soils

Authored by J.E. Smith; Published 2016

The environmental effect of extreme soil heating, such as occurs with the complete combustion of large downed wood during wildfires, is a post-fire management concern to forest managers. To address this knowledge gap, we stacked logs to create ‘mega-log’ burning conditions and compared the temperature, duration and penetration of the soil heat pulse in nine high intensity burned (HB) plots paired with adjacent masticated and broadcast burned low intensity burned (LB) plots at different soil depths (0, 5, 10 and 30 cm) in a Pinus ponderosa stand with volcanic pumice soils. Maximum soil surface temperatures ranges were 424–1168°C with a mean and standard error of 759 ± 9°C in the HB treatment and 42–360°C (107 ± 43°C) in the LB treatment. In the HB treatment, temperatures causing fine root and soil organism mortality (>60°C) penetrated the soil to at least 10 cm, but were not recorded at 30 cm. In the HB treatment, mean duration above 60°C at 0–10 cm persisted for 4–13 h (7.61 ± 1.02 h). Soils in the LB treatment experienced lethal temperatures at the surface for about an hour (1.19 ± 0.70 h) and at 5 cm were mostly well below lethal temperatures with the exception of one at 57°C and another at 100°C that remained above 60°C for 1.4 h. Large areas of high burn severity may affect long-term forest productivity. Our quantification of soil heating establishes conditions for ongoing studies investigating the effects of soil burn severity on tree seedling growth, soil fungi and nutrients.

Restoring forest structure and process stabilizes forest carbon in wildfire-prone southwestern ponderosa pine forests

Authored by M.D. Hurteau; Published 2016

Changing climate and a legacy of fire-exclusion have increased the probability of high-severity wildfire, leading to an increased risk of forest carbon loss in ponderosa pine forests in the southwestern USA. Efforts to reduce high-severity fire risk through forest thinning and prescribed burning require both the removal and emission of carbon from these forests, and any potential carbon benefits from treatment may depend on the occurrence of wildfire. We sought to determine how forest treatments alter the effects of stochastic wildfire events on the forest carbon balance. We modeled three treatments (control, thin-only, and thin and burn) with and without the occurrence of wildfire. We evaluated how two different probabilities of wildfire occurrence, 1% and 2% per year, might alter the carbon balance of treatments. In the absence of wildfire, we found that thinning and burning treatments initially reduced total ecosystem carbon (TEC) and increased net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB). In the presence of wildfire, the thin and burn treatment TEC surpassed that of the control in year 40 at 2%/yr wildfire probability, and in year 51 at 1%/yr wildfire probability. NECB in the presence of wildfire showed a similar response to the no-wildfire scenarios: both thin-only and thin and burn treatments increased the C sink. Treatments increased TEC by reducing both mean wildfire severity and its variability. While the carbon balance of treatments may differ in more productive forest types, the carbon balance benefits from restoring forest structure and fire in southwestern ponderosa pine forests are clear.

Categorizing the social context of the wildland urban interface: Adaptive capacity for wildfire and community "archetypes"

Authored by T.B. Paveglio; Published 2015

Understanding the local context that shapes collective response to wildfire risk continues to be a challenge for scientists and policymakers. This study utilizes and expands on a conceptual approach for understanding adaptive capacity to wildfire in a comparison of 18 past case studies. The intent is to determine whether comparison of local social context and community characteristics across cases can identify community "archetypes" that approach wildfire planning and mitigation in consistently different ways. Identification of community archetypes serves as a potential strategy for collaborating with diverse populations at risk from wildfire and designing tailored messages related to wildfire risk mitigation. Our analysis uncovered four consistent community archetypes that differ in terms of the local social context and community characteristics that continue to influence response to wildfire risk. Differences among community archetypes include local communication networks, reasons for place attachment or community identity, distrust of government, and actions undertaken to address issues of forest health and esthetics. Results indicate that the methodological approach advanced in this study can be used to draw more consistent lessons across case studies and provide the means to test different communication strategies among archetypes.

Is seeing believing? Perceptions of wildfire risk over time

Authored by P.A. Champ; Published 2016

Ongoing challenges to understanding how hazard exposure and disaster experiences influence perceived risk lead us to ask: Is seeing believing? We approach risk perception by attending to two components of overall risk perception: perceived probability of an event occurring and perceived consequences if an event occurs. Using a two-period longitudinal data set collected from a survey of homeowners living in a fire-prone area of Colorado, we find that study participants’ initial high levels of perceived probability and consequences of a wildfire did not change substantially after extreme wildfire events in the intervening years. More specifically, perceived probability of a wildfire changed very little, whereas the perceived consequences of a wildfire went up a bit. In addition, models of risk perceptions show that the two components of overall risk perception are correlated with somewhat different factors, and experience is not found to be one of the strongest correlates with perceived risk. These results reflect the importance of distinguishing the components of overall risk and modeling them separately to facilitate additional insights into the complexities of risk perceptions, factors related to perceived risk, and change in risk perceptions over time.

NWFSC Fire Facts: When is? A Fire Contained, Controlled, and Out

Authored by N.W.Fire Scien Consortium; Published 2016

A fire is always contained before it is controlled. Read more at, Fire Facts: When is? A Fire Contained, Controlled, and Out

Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment Webinar

This webinar will review the objectives and progress of the multi-agency Fire and Smoke Modeling Experiment (FASMEE) project. The primary objective of FASMEE is to gather observational data needed to evaluate and advance fire and smoke modeling systems. The project has two phases.  Phase 1 is ongoing and the main deliverable will be a comprehensive study plan that will include sampling methodology, safety, logistics, data management and a detailed budget.  Discipline leads for (1) fuels and consumption, (2) fire behavior and energy, (3) plume dynamics and meteorology, (4) emissions and chemistry, and (5) model simulation have been selected and are assisting in identifying observational data to be collected and in the drafting of the study plan.  The planning phase is supported by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) and the Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP). Phase 2 is a field data collection campaign that is expected to begin in the fall of 2018 and extend through 2021. During this phase, data is proposed to be collected on 4 to 8 large (>200 hectares) operational prescribed burns located on the Fishlake and Kaibab National Forests in the southwestern United States and on Fort Stewart and the Savannah River Site in the southeastern United States.  The sites have heavy fuel loads and will be burned under prescriptions that will create a relatively high intensity fire.  Although JFSP is expected to be a major supporter of Phase 2, several other federal agencies (DoD, DOI, EPA, NASA, NOAA, and USFS) are also expected to participate.

Presenters:  Roger Ottmar, Sim Larkin, Tim Brown, and Nancy French

To join the webinar, click on the attachment.

Particulate air pollution from wildfires in the Western US under climate change

Authored by J.Coco Liu; Published 2016

Wildfire can impose a direct impact on human health under climate change. While the potential impacts of climate change on wildfires and resulting air pollution have been studied, it is not known who will be most affected by the growing threat of wildfires. Identifying communities that will be most affected will inform development of fire management strategies and disaster preparedness programs. We estimate levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) directly attributable to wildfires in 561 western US counties during fire seasons for the present-day (2004–2009) and future (2046–2051), using a fire prediction model and GEOS-Chem, a 3-D global chemical transport model. Future estimates are obtained under a scenario of moderately increasing greenhouse gases by mid-century. We create a new term “Smoke Wave,” defined as ≥2 consecutive days with high wildfire-specific PM2.5, to describe episodes of high air pollution from wildfires. We develop an interactive map to demonstrate the counties likely to suffer from future high wildfire pollution events. For 2004–2009, on days exceeding regulatory PM2.5 standards, wildfires contributed an average of 71.3 % of total PM2.5. Under future climate change, we estimate that more than 82 million individuals will experience a 57 % and 31 % increase in the frequency and intensity, respectively, of Smoke Waves. Northern California, Western Oregon and the Great Plains are likely to suffer the highest exposure to widlfire smoke in the future. Results point to the potential health impacts of increasing wildfire activity on large numbers of people in a warming climate and the need to establish or modify US wildfire management and evacuation programs in high-risk regions. The study also adds to the growing literature arguing that extreme events in a changing climate could have significant consequences for human health.

Understanding Gaps Between the Risk Perceptions of Wildland–Urban Interface (WUI) Residents and Wildfire Professionals

Authored by J.R. Meldrum; Published 2015

Research across a variety of risk domains finds that the risk perceptions of professionals and the public differ. Such risk perception gaps occur if professionals and the public understand individual risk factors differently or if they aggregate risk factors into overall risk differently. The nature of such divergences, whether based on objective inaccuracies or on differing perspectives, is important to understand. However, evidence of risk perception gaps typically pertains to general, overall risk levels; evidence of and details about mismatches between the specific level of risk faced by individuals and their perceptions of that risk is less available. We examine these issues with a paired data set of professional and resident assessments of parcel-level wildfire risk for private property in a wildland–urban interface community located in western Colorado, United States. We find evidence of a gap between the parcel-level risk assessments of a wildfire professional and numerous measures of residents’ risk assessments. Overall risk ratings diverge for the majority of properties, as do judgments about many specific property attributes and about the relative contribution of these attributes to a property's overall level of risk. However, overall risk gaps are not well explained by many factors commonly found to relate to risk perceptions. Understanding the nature of these risk perception gaps can facilitate improved communication by wildfire professionals about how risks can be mitigated on private lands. These results also speak to the general nature of individual-level risk perception.

Forest Restoration Implementation Efficiencies Workshop

The Forest Restoration Implementation Efficiencies Workshop is a multi-day workshop to facilitate peer-to-peer learning among land managers, forest restoration industry and contractors, and collaborative stakeholders. The workshop will be held November 1-3, 2016 in Redmond, OR at the Eagle Crest Resort and is presented by the Central Oregon Forest Stewardship Foundation.

This workshop will provide a forum for a high-level technical exchange among Forest Service staff, industry practitioners, and interested members of forest collaboratives.

  • Learn from practitioners who are implementing innovative technologies and approaches. 
  • Engage in high-level, technical discussions about the challenges and opportunities associated with forest restoration strategies.
  • Identify strategies to increase the quality, pace and scale of dry forest restoration treatments.
  • Enhance your career, expand your knowledge, and earn professional development credits through the Society of American Foresters.

Cost: $100 per person. Lock in your early bird registration rate now! Price increases after October 21, 2016

Financial Assistance: Please do not let a lack of funding keep you from attending this valuable workshop! If you are in need of financial assistance, visit www.forestrestorationworkshop.org to download & complete the financial aid request form by October 5, 2016

For more information on presentation topics and to register online, please visit http://forestrestorationworkshop.org/

SimpleMC - A New Fine Dead Fuel Moisture Estimation Tool


Jim Brenner, Florida Forest Service

Matt Jolly, PhD, USDA Forest Service Missoula Fire Science Lab

Webinar Summary

Today’s commonly used fuel moisture field guides were developed decades ago without the aid of recent technology and extensive field verification. As such, these guides often poorly predict actual fine dead fuel moisture in many areas, particularly those of the humid Southeastern states. SimpleFM is a new fine dead fuel moisture model developed specifically for the Southeastern US that is a highly simplified version of a complex, physically-based fuel moisture model.  This new model represents a paradigm shift in fine fuel moisture estimation and it will soon be integrated into computer-based and paper fire behavior field references. To aid in adoption by fire managers, SimpleFM has been adapted to create a simple, web-based mobile interface for fuel moisture calculations in the field.  This webinar will describe the development of SimpleFM and demonstrate the web app.

This is a free webinar, but registration is required.

Western Juniper Management: Assessing Strategies for Improving Greater Sage-grouse Habitat and Rangeland Productivity

Authored by S. Farzan; Published 2015

Western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis subsp. occidentalis) range expansion into sagebrush steppe ecosystems has affected both native wildlife and economic livelihoods across western North America. The potential listing of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act has spurred a decade of juniper removal efforts, yet limited research has evaluated program effectiveness. We used a multi-objective spatially explicit model to identify optimal juniper removal sites in Northeastern California across weighted goals for ecological (sage-grouse habitat) and economic (cattle forage production) benefits. We also extended the analysis through alternative case scenarios that tested the effects of coordination among federal agencies, budgetary constraints, and the use of fire as a juniper treatment method. We found that sage-grouse conservation and forage production goals are somewhat complementary, but the extent of complementary benefits strongly depends on spatial factors and management approaches. Certain management actions substantially increase achievable benefits, including agency coordination and the use of prescribed burns to remove juniper. Critically, our results indicate that juniper management strategies designed to increase cattle forage do not necessarily achieve measurable sage-grouse benefits, underscoring the need for program evaluation and monitoring.

NWFSC Fire Facts: What is? Fuel Moisture Content

Authored by N.W.Fire Scien Consortium; Published 2016

Fuel moisture content (FMC) is a measure of the amount of water in a fuel, such as vegetation, available to a fire, and is expressed as a percent of the dry weight of that specific fuel. Read more at, Fire Facts: What is? Fuel Moisture Content