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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.

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

Hot Topics


Review of broad-scale drought monitoring of forests: Toward an integrated data mining approach

Authored by S.P. Norman; Published 2016

Efforts to monitor the broad-scale impacts of drought on forests often come up short. Drought is a direct stressor of forests as well as a driver of secondary disturbance agents, making a full accounting of drought impacts challenging. General impacts can be inferred from moisture deficits quantified using precipitation and temperature measurements. However, derived meteorological indices may not meaningfully capture drought impacts because drought responses can differ substantially among species, sites and regions. Meteorology-based approaches also require the characterization of current moisture conditions relative to some specified time and place, but defining baseline conditions over large, ecologically diverse regions can be as difficult as quantifying the moisture deficit itself. In contrast, remote sensing approaches attempt to observe immediate, secondary, and longer-term changes in vegetation response, yet they too are no panacea. Remote sensing methods integrate responses across entire mixed-vegetation pixels and rarely distinguish the effects of drought on a single species, nor can they disentangle drought effects from those caused by various other disturbance agents. Establishment of suitable baselines from remote sensing may be even more challenging than with meteorological data. Here we review broad-scale drought monitoring methods, and suggest that an integrated data-mining approach may hold the most promise for enhancing our ability to resolve drought impacts on forests. A big-data approach that integrates meteorological and remotely sensed data streams, together with other datasets such as vegetation type, wildfire occurrence and pest activity, can clarify direct drought effects while filtering indirect drought effects and consequences. This strategy leverages the strengths of meteorology-based and remote sensing approaches with the aid of ancillary data, such that they complement each other and lead toward a better understanding of drought impacts.


Efficacy of resource objective wildfires for restoring ponderosa pine ecosystems in northern Arizona

Webinar Event from Southwest Fire Science Consortium

Presenter: David Huffman, Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University

Historical interruption of frequent surface fire regimes and decades of fire exclusion have resulted in degraded ecological conditions in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of the American Southwest. Presently, there is much interest in managing natural fire ignitions to achieve restoration objectives across forest landscapes; however, little information is available concerning efficacy of such resource objective wildfires. We randomly selected 10 large resource objective wildfires on the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, and evaluated their efficacy for meeting restoration targets by comparing 12 attributes of structure, function, and fuels with target value ranges gleaned from published literature. Results indicated that areas of moderate burn severity met more restoration objectives (67%) than those of unburned/low (25%), low (50%), and high severity (17%). Restoration objectives for tree density and canopy cover were only met in areas of moderate burn severity. However, moderate burn severity areas comprised just 12% of fire landscapes on average. Restoration objectives for tree diameter distribution, large snag density, tree patch density, and maximum tree patch size were not met within any of the four discrete burn severity classes. Implications of these findings with respect to future management of wildfires will be discussed. Click here to register NOW!


2017 annual meeting of the Oregon Prescribed Fire Council

The 2017 annual meeting of the Oregon Prescribed Fire Council will be held April 18-19 in White City.  This free event is open to anyone interested in prescribed fire and controlled burning. 

This is a great opportunity to hear updates about Oregon's 2017 Smoke Management Plan Review, meet others interested in returning fire to the landscapes in Oregon that need it, see work being done on the ground to improve habitat and reduce wildfire risk at the cooperatively managed Table Rocks area, and learn about prescribed fire training exchanges (TREX) and cooperative burning through partnerships.

Please RSVP by emailing Carrie Berger at Carrie.Berger@oregonstate.edu by Friday, April 7th.

Check back for meeting and lodging details.


Understanding Stakeholder Perceptions of Fire with Mental Modelling A case study from Ashland, OR

Webinar from Northwest Fire Science Consortium

Antonie Jetter, associate professor in the Dept. of Engineering and Technology Management at Portland State University, presented Understanding Stakeholder Perceptions of Fire with Mental Modelling A case study from Ashland, OR.


Watch the video on our YouTube channel


Adapting fuel treatments in a changing climate - Prescribed fire, mechanical treatments, wildfire, and restoration

Authored by C. Gucker; Published 2016

The Available Science Assessment Project (ASAP) leads, EcoAdapt and Oregon State University’s Institute for Natural Resources, hosted a workshop during the International Association of Wildland Fire’s 5th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, in cooperation with the Northwest Fire Science Consortium and the Northern Rockies Fire Science Network. The workshop had managers and scientists build on a systematic map of the literature and results of an earlier scientist workshop. Outcomes from the manager and scientist workshop reflect perspectives of 36 participants from 30 organizations, which included federal and state agencies, tribal governments, non-profits, universities, and other research organizations. The 2016 workshop, in part, explored on-the-ground climate adaptation actions that might be used for fire and fuels management under future climate conditions. Specifically, workshop participants were asked to identify the likely impacts of climate change and what they saw as barriers and potential opportunities for the use of - Prescribed fire, Mechanical fuel treatment, Managed wildfire, and Post-fire restoration (seeding/planting).


All Lands Approaches to Fire Management in the Pacific West: A Typology

Authored by S. Charnley; Published 2017

Since 2009, the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service has promoted an “all lands approach” to forest restoration, particularly relevant in the context of managing wildfire. To characterize its implementation, we undertook an inventory of what we refer to as fire-focused all lands management (ALM) projects, defined as projects in which fuels reduction treatments are planned or implemented across more than one landownership to reduce wildfire risk or increase forest resilience to wildfire. We focused on regions of Washington, Oregon, and California dominated by dry, fire-prone forests and documented 41 projects. From this sample we developed a typology with five project categories. We found that ALM takes many forms and occurs in diverse contexts, federal lands and land managers are frequently involved in them, and all projects foster relationship and capacity building for future ALM. Our typology provides a framework for better understanding of all lands approaches and suggests areas for further investigation.


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

What will you learn?

RFPAs are unique partnerships wherein ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management work together to suppress rangeland wildfires. Using four case studies in Oregon and Idaho, we discuss the value and outcomes of this approach, as well as challenges and future implications for fire adaptation on the range.

Presenters:
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

Session Details: Wednesday, June 7th at 10:00am US/Pacific || Duration: 1 hour

Who should participate?
Land managers/practitioners, Fire managers, Scientists/Researchers, Others 

Join the Northwest Fire Sciene Consortium and REGISTER NOW!


Economic Opportunities and Trade-Offs in Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration

Authored by A.A. Ager; Published 2017

We modeled forest restoration scenarios to examine socioeconomic and ecological trade-offs associated with alternative prioritization scenarios. The study examined four US national forests designated as priorities for investments to restore fire resiliency and generate economic opportunities to support local industry. We were particularly interested in economic trade-offs that would result from prioritization of management activities to address forest departure and wildfire risk to the adjacent urban interface. The results showed strong trade-offs and scale effects on production possibility frontiers, and substantial variation among planning areas and national forests. The results pointed to spatially explicit priorities and opportunities to achieve restoration goals within the study area. However, optimizing revenue to help finance restoration projects led to a sharp reduction in the attainment of other socioecological objectives, especially reducing forest departure from historical conditions. The analytical framework and results can inform ongoing collaborative restoration planning to help stakeholders understand the opportunity cost of specific restoration objectives. This work represents one of the first spatially explicit, economic trade-off analyses of national forest restoration programs, and reveals the relative cost of different restoration strategies, as well scale-related changes in production frontiers associated with restoration investments.


Decomposition Rates for Hand-Piled Fuels

Authored by C.S. Wright; Published 2017

Hand-constructed piles in eastern Washington and north-central New Mexico were weighed periodically between October 2011 and June 2015 to develop decay-rate constants that are useful for estimating the rate of piled biomass loss over time. Decay-rate constants (k) were determined by fitting negative exponential curves to time series of pile weight for each site. Piles at the Washington site (k = 0.027/year) decomposed significantly more slowly than piles at the New Mexico site (k = 0.064/year). Significant differences in k for each site may be a function of a between-site variation in pile composition (with or without large woody material), the environmental dissimilarities between sites (Mediterranean climate regime in Washington vs. monsoonal climate regime in New Mexico), or a combination of factors.


Aligning Smoke Management with Ecological and Public Health Goals

Authored by J.W. Long; Published 2017

Past and current forest management affects wildland fire smoke impacts on downwind human populations. However, mismatches between the scale of benefits and risks make it difficult to proactively manage wildland fires to promote both ecological and public health. Building on recent literature and advances in modeling smoke and health effects, we outline a framework to more directly quantify and compare smoke impacts based on emissions, dispersion, and the size and vulnerability of downwind populations across time and space. We apply the framework in a case study to demonstrate how different kinds of fires in California's Central Sierra Nevada have resulted in very different smoke impacts. Our results indicate that the 257,314-acre Rim Fire of 2013 probably resulted in 7 million person-days of smoke impact across California and Nevada, which was greater than 5 times the impact per burned unit area than two earlier wildfires, Grouse and Harden of 2009, that were intentionally managed for resource objectives within the same airshed. The framework and results suggest strategies and tactics for undertaking larger-scale burns that can minimize smoke impacts, restore forest ecosystems, and reduce the potential for more hazardous wildfire and smoke events.


Landscape-scale quantification of fire-induced change in canopy cover following mountain pine beetle outbreak and timber harvest

Authored by R. McCarley; Published 2017

Across the western United States, the three primary drivers of tree mortality and carbon balance are bark beetles, timber harvest, and wildfire. While these agents of forest change frequently overlap, uncertainty remains regarding their interactions and influence on specific subsequent fire effects such as change in canopy cover. Acquisition of pre- and post-fire Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data on the 2012 Pole Creek Fire in central Oregon provided an opportunity to isolate and quantify fire effects coincident with specific agents of change. This study characterizes the influence of pre-fire mountain pine beetle (MPB; Dendroctonus ponderosae) and timber harvest disturbances on LiDAR-estimated change in canopy cover. Observed canopy loss from fire was greater (higher severity) in areas experiencing pre-fire MPB (Δ 18.8%CC) than fire-only (Δ 11.1%CC). Additionally, increasing MPB intensity was directly related to greater canopy loss. Canopy loss was lower for all areas of pre-fire timber harvest (Δ 3.9%CC) than for fire-only, but among harvested areas, the greatest change was observed in the oldest treatments and the most intensive treatments [i.e., stand clearcut (Δ 5.0%CC) and combination of shelterwood establishment cuts and shelterwood removal cuts (Δ 7.7%CC)]. These results highlight the importance of accounting for and understanding the impact of pre-fire agents of change such as MPB and timber harvest on subsequent fire effects in land management planning. This work also demonstrates the utility of multi-temporal LiDAR as a tool for quantifying these landscape-scale interactions.


Long-Term Fuel Succession in the Sagebrush-Steppe

Schyler A. Reis - M.S. Thesis Defense


Contemporary patterns of fire extent and severity in forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA (1985–2010)

Authored by M.J. Reilly; Published 2017

Fire is an important disturbance in many forest landscapes, but there is heightened concern regarding recent wildfire activity in western North America. Several regional-scale studies focus on high-severity fire, but a comprehensive examination at all levels of burn severity (i.e., low, moderate, and high) is needed to inform our understanding of the ecological effects of contemporary fires and how they vary among vegetation zones at sub-regional scales. We integrate Landsat time series data with field measurements of tree mortality to map burn severity in forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA, from 1985 to 2010. We then examine temporal trends in fire extent and spatial patterns of burn severity in relation to drought and annual fire extent. Finally, we compare results among vegetation zones and with expectations based on studies of historical landscape dynamics and fire regimes. Small increases in fire extent over time were associated with drought in all vegetation zones, but fire cumulatively affected <3% of wet vegetation zones, and most dry vegetation zones experienced less fire than expectations from fire history studies. Although the proportion of fire at any level of severity did not increase over time, temporal trends toward larger patches of high-severity fire were related to drought and annual fire extent, depending on vegetation zone. In vegetation zones with historically high-severity regimes, high-severity fire accounted for a large proportion of recent fire extent (43–48%) and occurred primarily in patches ≥100 ha. In vegetation zones with historically low- and mixed-severity regimes, low (45–54%)- and moderate-severity (24–36%) fires were prevalent, but proportions of high-severity fire (23–26%), almost half of which occurred in patches ≥100 ha, were much greater than expectations from most fire history studies. Our results support concerns about large patches of high-severity fire in some dry forests but also suggest that spatial patterns of burn severity across much of the extent burned are generally consistent with current understanding of historical landscape dynamics in the region. This study highlights the importance of considering the ecological effects of fire at all levels of severity in management and policy initiatives intended to promote forest biodiversity and resilience to future fire activity.


NFPA’s Wildland/Urban Interface: Fire Department Wildfire Preparedness and Readiness Capabilities – Final Report

Authored by H. Haynes; Published 2017

The increasing frequency and intensity of wildland and wildland-urban interface (WUI) fires have become a significant concern in many parts of the United States and around the world. To address and manage this WUI fire risk, local fire departments around the country have begun to acquire the appropriate equipment and offer more training in wildfire response and suppression. There is also growing recognition of the importance of wildfire mitigation and public outreach about community risk reduction. Using survey and interview data from 46 senior officers from local fire departments around the U.S., this report describes how some local fire departments are addressing the wildfire peril in terms equipment, training, fitness, response strategies and tactics, public communication, education, and mitigation activities. The successes and challenges these departments have experienced also show how departments face and overcome barriers to being better prepared and ready to control and mitigate a wildfire incident in their communities.


Pacific Northwest: Forest Collaboratives Workshop

On March 30-31, 2017, Sustainable Northwest will host the Pacific Northwest Forest Collaboratives Workshop in Hood River, Oregon. The workshop will bring together forest collaborative members, state and federal land management agencies, policy makers, and leading scientists and practitioners to network, share success stories, and develop solutions to forest management challenges.

The meeting agenda is coming soon! 

Click here to register. 

The agenda and the financial aid form can be found at the bottom of this page.

For more information, contact Andrew Spaeth, Forest Program Director, at aspaeth@sustainablenorthwest.org

Location information:

Best Western Hood River Inn

1108 E Marina Drive

Hood River, OR 97031

Accommodations are available on-site by calling (541) 386-2200. Please ask for the Sustainable Northwest room block rate to secure special event pricing. 

The workshop begins at 9:00 AM on Thursday, March 30 and ends at 3:00 PM on Friday, March 31. We look forward to seeing you there!


Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States

Authored by J.K. Balch; Published 2017

Fighting wildfires in the United States costs billions of dollars annually. Public dialog and ongoing research have focused on increasing wildfire risk because of climate warming, overlooking the direct role that people play in igniting wildfires and increasing fire activity. Our analysis of two decades of government agency wildfire records highlights the fundamental role of human ignitions. Human-started wildfires accounted for 84% of all wildfires, tripled the length of the fire season, dominated an area seven times greater than that affected by lightning fires, and were responsible for nearly half of all area burned. National and regional policy efforts to mitigate wildfire-related hazards would benefit from focusing on reducing the human expansion of the fire niche.