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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

A spatial database for restoration management capability on national forests in the Pacific Northwest USA

Authored by C. Ringo; Published 2016

Description: Understanding the capacity to reduce wildfire risk and restore dry forests on Western national forests is a key part of prioritizing new accelerated restoration programs initiated by the Forest Service. Although a number of social and biophysical factors influence the ability to implement restoration programs, one key driver is the suite of forest plan land designations and associated management directions. These land use designations and conservation reserves, which are intended to provide an array of ecosystem services (recreation, wildlife, water, timber, research, etc.), were created under the National Forest Management Act. In many cases, they have subsequently been updated to account for legislated protection for threatened and endangered species. Individual land designations have distinct properties in terms of biophysical settings, fire regimes, and a myriad of management constraints intended to conserve landscape resiliency over time. Despite the importance of forest plan designations for assessing restoration capacity, standardized spatial data at regional scales do not exist, making comprehensive regional and national assessments of restoration potentials and priorities difficult. As part of a broader study of restoration potential in the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region, we obtained spatial data from existing forest plans and categorized more than 800 different land designations into five distinct categories according to management restrictions, then created a seamless spatial dataset for the region. We then examined the composition of the different categories of management with respect to the dominant fire regime. We also generated an atlas of management categories (which we are calling “Land Classes” of the national forests in the region, which can be used to understand the spatial distribution of management restrictions on individual forests. The data enable broader scale assessments and prioritization analyses within the region, and provide a case study template for other regions to follow to further advance national scale assessments of restoration and fuel management potential.

The impact of aging on laboratory fire behaviour in masticated shrub fuelbeds of California and Oregon, USA

Authored by J.K. Kreye; Published 2016

Mastication of shrubs and small trees to reduce fire hazard has become a widespread management practice, yet many aspects of the fire behaviour of these unique woody fuelbeds remain poorly understood. To examine the effects of fuelbed aging on fire behaviour, we conducted laboratory burns with masticated Arctostaphylos spp. and Ceanothus spp. woody debris that ranged from 2 to 16 years since treatment. Masticated fuels that were 10 years or older burned with 18 to 29% shorter flame heights and 19% lower fireline intensities compared with the younger fuelbeds across three different fuel loads (25, 50 and 75 Mg ha–1). Older fuelbeds smouldered for almost 50% longer than the younger masticated fuelbeds. Fuel consumption was 96% in the two higher fuel load categories regardless of fuelbed age, whereas consumption was 77% in the lighter fuel load. Fire intensity in masticated fuels may decrease over time owing to particle degradation, but in dry environments where decomposition is slow, combustion of the remaining fuels may still pose risks for tree mortality and smoke production associated with protracted smouldering.

Progress in wilderness fire science: Embracing complexity

Authored by C. Miller; Published 2016

Wilderness has played an invaluable role in the development of wildland fire science. Since Agee’s review of the subject 15 years ago, tremendous progress has been made in the development of models and data, in understanding the complexity of wildland fire as a landscape process, and in appreciating the social factors that influence the use of wilderness fire. Regardless of all we have learned, though, the reality is that fire remains an extraordinarily complex process with variable effects that create essential heterogeneity in ecosystems. Whereas some may view this variability as a management impediment, for others it provides a path forward. As research has shown, embracing fire in all its complexity and expanding its use can help reduce fuels, restore resilient landscapes, and contain costs. Wilderness fire science will continue to play an important role in understanding opportunities for using fire, its role in ecosystems, its risks and benefits, and the influence of risk perception on decisionmaking.

International Congress on Prescribed Fires (ICOPFIRES)

ICOPFIRES will be the first international congress about prescribed fires in Europe. We aim to connect the diverse stakeholders involved in forest management (e.g. local authorities, fire fighters, foresters, land managers and owners) with researchers from several fields, as biology, geography, ecology, sociology, meteorology, climatology, engineery, soil scientists, physicists among others. It is important to transfer knowledge among the participants and learning from the experiences from all the participants about the use of prescribed fire for land management....

The International Congress on Prescribed Fires has the pleasure to hold also the 14th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit.

For more information, click on ICOPFIRES


Western Regional Extension Forestry Meeting

Conference Event from Utah State University Extension

Time pressures and distance make collaboration and coordination between extension foresters from different states challenging. The objective of this meeting is to bring together extension professionals in forestry and related disciplines from the western region and offer a comfortable, low pressure venue for sharing program ideas and potential directions for future collaboration. We hope that our time together will lead to:

  •  The formation of new programming ideas or ways to improve on existing programs.
  •  Identification of ways to overcome barriers (real or potential) for getting ideas off the ground.
  •  New partnerships between states where information and ideas are freely shared and used.

Much of this meeting will consist of short presentations (given by you!) of ideas you have for cooperative projects, followed by short, informal meetings to discuss the projects that generate the most interest. Our objective is to get some interstate projects going from this sharing. We expect that many of you have ‘back burner’ ideas that are slowly smoldering away…this will be your chance to share them. And even if you don’t have specific programming ideas in mind, you may be interested in colleagues’ ideas and this meeting could spark new collaborations. Oregon State University Extension Forestry has used the following articles for strategic planning. These papers will serve as a rough guide for the sharing process we will use for this meeting.

For more information, click HERE.

NWFSC Research Brief #9: Wildfire impacts on spring Chinook Salmon: Habitat quality in the Wenatchee River sub-basin

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

In this study, researchers developed models of freshwater habitat for spring Chinook Salmon in pre- and post-fire scenarios in the Wenatchee River sub-basin of central Washington, where a large number of wildfires have occurred in the past 30 years. They predicted changes in in-stream wood, sediment, and water temperature as a result of wildfires and modeled their influence on habitat quality for three life stages (egg/fry, juvenile, and adult) of spring Chinook Salmon. They also compared their model results with the current and historic distribution of spring Chinook Salmon to better understand if decreasing populations are distributed in ways that correlate with fire impacts on habitats.

Burning the legacy? Influence of wildfire reburn on dead wood dynamics in a temperate conifer forest

Authored by D.C. Donato; Published 2016

Dynamics of dead wood, a key component of forest structure, are not well described for mixed- severity fi re regimes with widely varying fi re intervals. A prominent form of such variation is when two stand- replacing fi res occur in rapid succession, commonly termed an early- seral “reburn.” These events are thought to strongly infl uence dead wood abundance in a regenerating forest, but this hypothesis has scarcely been tested. We measured dead wood following two overlapping wildfi res in coniferdominated forests of the Klamath Mountains, Oregon (USA), to assess whether reburning (15- yr interval, with >90% vegetation mortality) resulted in lower dead wood abundance and altered character relative to once- burned stands, and how any diff erences may project through succession. Total dead wood mass (standing + down) following the reburn (169 ± 83 Mg/ha [95%CI]) was 45% lower than after a single fire (309 ± 87 Mg/ha). Lower levels in reburn stands were due to, in roughly equal parts, additional combustion and greater time for decay. Although a single fi re in mature forest both consumed and created dead wood (by killing large live trees), a reburn only consumed dead wood (few large live trees to kill). Charred biomass (black carbon generation) was higher in reburned stands by a factor of 2 for logs and 8 for snags. Projecting these stands forward (notwithstanding future disturbances) suggests: (1) the near- halving of dead- wood mass in reburn stands will persist for ~50 yr until the recruitment of new material begins, and (2) the reburn signature on dead wood abundance will remain apparent for over a century. These findings demonstrate how a single stochastic variation in disturbance interval can impart lasting infl uence on dead- wood succession, reinforcing the notion that many temperate forests exist in a state of dead- wood disequilibrium governed by site- specifi c disturbance history. Accounting for such variation in disturbance impacts is crucial to better understanding forests with complex mixed- severity disturbance regimes and with increasing stochasticity under climatic change.

Wilderness in the 21st Century: A Framework for Testing Assumptions about Ecological Intervention in Wilderness Using a Case Study in Fire Ecology in the Rocky Mountains

Authored by C.E. Naficy; Published 2016

Changes in the climate and in key ecological processes are prompting increased debate about ecological restoration and other interventions in wilderness. The prospect of intervention in wilderness raises legal, scientific, and values-based questions about the appropriateness of possible actions. In this article, we focus on the role of science to elucidate the potential need for intervention. We review the meaning of “untrammeled” from the 1964 Wilderness Act to aid our understanding of the legal context for potential interventions in wilderness. We explore the tension between restraint and active intervention in managing wilderness and introduce a framework for testing ecological assumptions when evaluating restoration proposals. We illustrate use of the framework in the restoration of fire regimes and fuel conditions in ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of the US Rocky Mountains. Even in this relatively well-studied example, we find that the assumptions underlying proposed interventions in wilderness need to be critically evaluated and tested before new, more intensive management paradigms are embraced.

Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the coterminous United States

Authored by G. Wigtil; Published 2016

The hazards-of-place model posits that vulnerability to environmental hazards depends on both biophysical and social factors. Biophysical factors determine where wildfire potential is elevated, whereas social factors determine where and how people are affected by wildfire. We evaluated place vulnerability to wildfire hazards in the coterminous US. We developed a social vulnerability index using principal component analysis and evaluated it against existing measures of wildfire potential and wildland–urban interface designations. We created maps showing the coincidence of social vulnerability and wildfire potential to identify places according to their vulnerability to wildfire. We found that places with high wildfire potential have, on average, lower social vulnerability than other places, but nearly 10% of all housing in places with high wildfire potential also exhibits high social vulnerability. We summarised our data by states to evaluate trends at a subnational level. Although some regions, such as the South-east, had more housing in places with high wildfire vulnerability, other regions, such as the upper Midwest, exhibited higher rates of vulnerability than expected. Our results can help to inform wildfire prevention, mitigation and recovery planning, as well as reduce wildfire hazards affecting vulnerable places and populations.

Quantifying the influence of previously burned areas on suppression effectiveness and avoided exposure: a case study of the Las Conchas Fire

Authored by M.P. Thompson; Published 2016

We present a case study of the Las Conchas Fire (2011) to explore the role of previously burned areas (wildfires and prescribed fires) on suppression effectiveness and avoided exposure. Methodological innovations include characterisation of the joint dynamics of fire growth and suppression activities, development of a fire line effectiveness framework, and quantification of relative fire line efficiencies inside and outside of previously burned areas. We provide descriptive statistics of several fire line effectiveness metrics. Additionally, we leverage burn probability modelling to examine how burned areas could have affected fire spread potential and subsequent exposure of highly valued resources and assets to fire. Results indicate that previous large fires exhibited significant and variable impacts on suppression effectiveness and fire spread potential. Most notably the Cerro Grande Fire (2000) likely exerted a significant and positive influence on containment, and in the absence of that fire the community of Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory could have been exposed to higher potential for loss. Although our scope of inference is limited results are consistent with other research, suggesting that fires can exert negative feedbacks that can reduce resistance to control and enhance the effectiveness of suppression activities on future fires.