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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

Decreasing fire season precipitation increased recent western US forest wildfire activity

Authored by Z.A. Holden; Published 2018

Western United States wildfire increases have been generally attributed to warming temperatures, either through effects on winter snowpack or summer evaporation. However, near-surface air temperature and evaporative demand are strongly influenced by moisture availability and these interactions and their role in regulating fire activity have never been fully explored. Here we show that previously unnoted declines in summer precipitation from 1979 to 2016 across 31–45% of the forested areas in the western United States are strongly associated with burned area variations. The number of wetting rain days (WRD; days with precipitation ≥2.54 mm) during the fire season partially regulated the temperature and subsequent vapor pressure deficit (VPD) previously implicated as a primary driver of annual wildfire area burned. We use path analysis to decompose the relative influence of declining snowpack, rising temperatures, and declining precipitation on observed fire activity increases. After accounting for interactions, the net effect of WRD anomalies on wildfire area burned was more than 2.5 times greater than the net effect of VPD, and both the WRD and VPD effects were substantially greater than the influence of winter snowpack. These results suggest that precipitation during the fire season exerts the strongest control on burned area either directly through its wetting effects or indirectly through feedbacks to VPD. If these trends persist, decreases in summer precipitation and the associated summertime aridity increases would lead to more burned area across the western United States with far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic impacts.

Science and Collaborative Processes

Authored by E.J. Davis; Published 2018

About Go Big or Go Home?: The goals of this research project were to analyze how public land managers and stakeholders in Oregon’s east Cascades can plan and manage at landscape scales using scientific research and participatory simulation modeling (Envision). To learn more, visit: gbgh.forestry.oregonstate.edu

Key Findings and Messages from the Go Big or Go Home? Project

Authored by E.J. Davis; Published 2018

About Go Big or Go Home?: The goals of this research project were to analyze how public land managers and stakeholders in Oregon’s east Cascades can plan and manage at landscape scales using scientific research and participatory simulation modeling (Envision). To learn more, visit: gbgh.forestry.oregonstate.edu

The role of people in changing modern U.S. fire regimes

There are three ingredients needed for fire: fuel to burn, hot & dry conditions, and an ignition source. People are changing all three. The area burned has increased over just the past several decades, in western U.S. forests by 1500%. Last year was the most expensive wildfire season ever in the U.S., costing $18 Billion. We need to learn to live with fire, again. But how? Ultimately, we need to build better and burn better. In this webinar, Dr. Balch will explore these questions and answer questions from webinar participants.

Register HERE.

Landscapes 101: Understanding Landscape Approaches to Forest Restoration and Management

Authored by E.J. Davis; Published 2018

About Go Big or Go Home?: The goals of this research project were to analyze how public land managers and stakeholders in Oregon’s east Cascades can plan and manage at landscape scales using scientific research and participatory simulation modeling (Envision). To learn more, visit: gbgh.forestry.oregonstate.edu

Prescribed fire policy barriers: Findings from a JFSP project on challenges and strategies on federal lands across the West

What will you learn?

Prescribed fire is an essential management tool for restoring and maintaining fire-dependent ecosystems; however, land managers are unable to apply prescribed fire at the necessary levels. Past surveys have identified a range of policies and regulations that managers say
limit their ability to conduct prescribed fire. We are conducting a project investigating barriers to prescribed fire across the West for the BLM and the US Forest Service. Our goals are to identify the origin and range of interpretation of perceived policy barriers (i.e. whether these
reside in law, agency guidance, culture, or individual discretion) and characterize the opportunities and mechanisms that are available to overcome barriers at various scales. The first phase of our project involved a legal analysis and interviews across the 11 Western states with BLM and Forest Service fire and fuels managers and state-level air quality regulators. We report on the diversity of regulatory approaches, policy barriers, and strategies for overcoming challenges across the West, based on our legal review and interviews. While air quality regulation limits managers’ ability to conduct prescribed fire, it is only one of many issues that managers say affect their programs; other significant challenges include capacity limitations, a lack of incentives to increase accomplishments, and individual risk aversion. We will discuss the importance of governance and communication strategies for overcoming the challenge of integrating air quality and land management concerns and discuss other suggestions from interviewees that would afford managers greater opportunities to get more prescribed fire on the ground.


Courtney Schultz, Associate Professor of Forest and Natural Resource Policy and Director of the Public Lands Policy Group in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at Colorado State University

Heidi Huber-Stearns, Associate Director of the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon

Session Details: Tuesday, November 29, 2019 at 11:30am US/Pacific || Duration: 1.5 hour

Who should participate?

Managers/Practitioners, Scientists/Researchers, Other


Register HERE.

CEUS (continuing education credits) HERE.


Prepare your computer or mobile device in advance: WebEx instructions

Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes: An Outcome-Based Investment Strategy

Authored by U.States For Service; Published 2018

Managers and owners of forests across the Nation face urgent challenges, among them catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, drought, and epidemics of forest insects and disease. Of particular concern are longer fire seasons and the rising size and severity of wildfires, along with the expanding risk to communities, natural resources, and the safety of firefighters. Accordingly, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, we are rethinking our approach to land management. We will work closely with States to set landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.

High-severity fire: Evaluating its key drivers and mapping its probability across western US forests

Authored by S.A. Parks; Published 2018

Wildland fire is a critical process in forests of the western United States (US). Variation in fire behavior, which is heavily influenced by fuel loading, terrain, weather, and vegetation type, leads to heterogeneity in fire severity across landscapes. The relative influence of these factors in driving fire severity, however, is poorly understood. Here, we explore the drivers of high-severity fire for forested ecoregions in the western US over the period 2002–2015. Fire severity was quantified using a satellite-inferred index of severity, the relativized burn ratio. For each ecoregion, we used boosted regression trees to model high-severity fire as a function of live fuel, topography, climate, and fire weather. We found that live fuel, on average, was the most important factor driving high-severity fire among ecoregions (average relative influence = 53.1%) and was the most important factor in 14 of 19 ecoregions. Fire weather was the second most important factor among ecoregions (average relative influence = 22.9%) and was the most important factor in five ecoregions. Climate (13.7%) and topography (10.3%) were less influential. We also predicted the probability of high-severity fire, were a fire to occur, using recent (2016) satellite imagery to characterize live fuel for a subset of ecoregions in which the model skill was deemed acceptable (n=13). These ‘wall-to-wall’ gridded ecoregional maps provide relevant and up-to-date information for scientists and managers who are tasked with managing fuel and wildland fire. Lastly, we provide an example of the predicted likelihood of high-severity fire under moderate and extreme fire weather before and after fuel reduction treatments, thereby demonstrating how our framework and model predictions can potentially serve as a performance metric for land management agencies tasked with reducing hazardous fuel across large landscapes.

Lessons Learned from Hosting Learn-n-Burn Events

Presenter: Jennifer Fawcett, North Carolina State University and SERPPAS

Webinar Description: "Learn and Burn" workshops are an excellent way for private landowners and others to gain hands-on burning experience and knowledge from expert mentors. This webinar will provide some lessons learned from coordinating these events, and tips to putting one on in the future. Participants will be provided with a template checklist, examples of past agendas, ideas for potential partners and funding opportunities, suggestions on how to measure program impact, and successes from past events. 

Event Registration: Pre-registration for the webinar is required. Once registered, participants will receive an Eventbrite Ticket email containing the Zoom webinar link.  On the day of the webinar, click the link to join the meeting.

Webinar Requirements: A reliable internet connection and speakers / headphones are required to participate.  Webinar audio will be broadcast directly to your computer and may be available via a call in number.  See registration email for more details. Webinar participants do not need a microphone or video camera. See the Zoom Help page for more information about the Zoom webinar plateform requirements (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us).

Webinar Recording: If you can't make the webinar, look for the recording to be posted on the Southern Fire Exchange YouTube Webinar Archive.

Contact Us: If you have questions about this webinar, contact the Southern Fire Exchange (contactus@southernfireexchange.org).

Register Now: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sfe-webinar-lessons-learned-from-learn-n-bu...

Regional and local controls on historical fire regimes of dry forests and woodlands in the Rogue River Basin, Oregon, USA

Authored by K.L. Metlen; Published 2018

Fire regimes structure plant communities worldwide with regional and local factors, including anthropogenic fire management, influencing fire frequency and severity. Forests of the Rogue River Basin in Oregon, USA, are both productive and fire-prone due to ample winter precipitation and summer drought; yet management in this region is strongly influenced by forest practices that depend on fire exclusion. Regionally, climate change is increasing fire frequency, elevating the importance of understanding historically frequent-fire regimes.

We use cross-dated fire-scars to characterize historical fire return intervals, seasonality, and relationships with climate beginning in 1650 CE for 13 sites representative of southwestern Oregon dry forests. Using systematic literature review, we link our local fire histories to a regional dataset and evaluate our data relative to more intensively studied conifer/hardwood forest types in California.

Fire-scars show that fires in the Rogue Basin were frequent and regular until disrupted in the 1850s through 1910s, corresponding with forced displacement of Native Americans and Euro-American settlement. Median historical fire return intervals were 8 years at the stand-scale (<25 ha), with site medians ranging from five to 14 years and no significant differences between sampled vegetation types. Burn seasonality was broadly distributed with 47% of recorded fires in the latewood (midsummer), 30% at the ring boundary (late summer and fall), and 23% in the earlywood (spring and early summer).

The number of sites recording fire each year was associated with Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and El Niño Southern Oscillation Index (ENSO). Fires were detected in the study area every other year, and synchrony among sites was associated with stronger annual drought. The ENSO synchronization of fire suggests an herbaceous fuel signal, with warm winters/wet summers two years prior to widespread fire-years, a pattern observed globally in fuel-limited systems.

Stand-scale fire histories in the Klamath, southern Cascades, and northern Sierra Nevada ecoregions resemble Rogue River Basin stand-scale fire histories. Across dry mixed conifer, yellow pine, and mixed evergreen forests, fire return intervals converged on 8 years. Moist mixed conifer and red fir forests exhibited 13-year fire return intervals. Across ecoregions, fire periodicity was weakly correlated with climatic water deficit, but well-modeled by elevation, precipitation, and temperature. These data highlight the need for decadal fire and burning outside of the contemporary fire season for forest restoration and climate adaptation in the dry forests of the Rogue Basin.

Multitemporal LiDAR improves estimates of fire severity in forested landscapes

Authored by M.S. Hoe; Published 2018

Landsat-based fire severity maps have limited ecological resolution, which can hinder assessments of change to specific resources. Therefore, we evaluated the use of pre- and post-fire LiDAR, and combined LiDAR with Landsat-based relative differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (RdNBR) estimates, to increase the accuracy and resolution of basal area mortality estimation. We vertically segmented point clouds and performed model selection on spectral and spatial pre- and post-fire LiDAR metrics and their absolute differences. Our best multitemporal LiDAR model included change in mean intensity values 2–10 m above ground, the sum of proportion of canopy reflection above 10 m, and differences in maximum height. This model significantly reduced root-mean-squared error (RMSE), root-mean-squared prediction error (RMSPE), and bias when compared with models using only RdNBR. Our top combined model integrated RdNBR with LiDAR return proportions <2 m above ground, pre-fire 95% heights and pre-fire return proportions <2 m above ground. This model also significantly reduced RMSE, RMSPE, and bias relative to RdNBR. Our results confirm that three-dimensional spectral and spatial information from multitemporal LiDAR can isolate disturbance effects on specific ecological resources with higher accuracy and ecological resolution than Landsat-based estimates, offering a new frontier in landscape-scale estimates of fire effects.

Forest Service Managers' Perception of Landscapes and Computer Models

Authored by E.J. Davis; Published 2018

About Go Big or Go Home?: The goals of this research project were to analyze how public land managers and stakeholders in Oregon’s east Cascades can plan and manage at landscape scales using scientific research and participatory simulation modeling (Envision). To learn more, visit: gbgh.forestry.oregonstate.edu