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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

PNW Drought & Climate Outlook

The Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System (PNW DEWS) April 2017 Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar is part of a series of regular drought and climate outlook webinars designed to provide stakeholders and other interested parties in the region with timely information on current drought status and impacts, as well as a preview of current and developing climatic events (Read more
Register HERE.

Using fire to promote biodiversity

Authored by L.T. Kelly; Published 2017

Fire profoundly influences people, climate, and ecosystems (1). The impacts of this interaction are likely to grow, with climate models forecasting widespread increases in fire frequency and intensity because of rising global temperatures (2). However, the relationship between fire and biodiversity is complex (3, 4). Many plants and animals require fire for their survival, yet even in fire-prone ecosystems, some species and communities are highly sensitive to fire. Recent studies (2, 3, 5, 6) are helping to define fire regimes that support the conservation of species with different requirements in a rapidly changing world...

Visions of Restoration in Fire-Adapted Forest Landscapes: Lessons from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program

Authored by L.S. Urgenson; Published 2017

Collaborative approaches to natural resource management are becoming increasingly common on public lands. Negotiating a shared vision for desired conditions is a fundamental task of collaboration and serves as a foundation for developing management objectives and monitoring strategies. We explore the complex socio-ecological processes involved in developing a shared vision for collaborative restoration of fire-adapted forest landscapes. To understand participant perspectives and experiences, we analyzed interviews with 86 respondents from six collaboratives in the western U.S., part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program established to encourage collaborative, science-based restoration on U.S. Forest Service lands. Although forest landscapes and group characteristics vary considerably, collaboratives faced common challenges to developing a shared vision for desired conditions. Three broad categories of challenges emerged: meeting multiple objectives, collaborative capacity and trust, and integrating ecological science and social values in decision-making. Collaborative groups also used common strategies to address these challenges, including some that addressed multiple challenges. These included use of issue-based recommendations, field visits, and landscape-level analysis; obtaining support from local agency leadership, engaging facilitators, and working in smaller groups (sub-groups); and science engagement. Increased understanding of the challenges to, and strategies for, developing a shared vision of desired conditions is critical if other collaboratives are to learn from these efforts.

Climate changes and wildfire alter vegetation of Yellowstone National Park, but forest cover persists

Authored by J.A. Clark; Published 2017

We present landscape simulation results contrasting effects of changing climates on forest vegetation and fire regimes in Yellowstone National Park, USA, by mid-21st century. We simulated potential changes to fire dynamics and forest characteristics under three future climate projections representing a range of potential future conditions using the FireBGCv2 model. Under the future climate scenarios with moderate warming (>2°C) and moderate increases in precipitation (3–5%), model simulations resulted in 1.2–4.2 times more burned area, decreases in forest cover (10–44%), and reductions in basal area (14–60%). In these same scenarios, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) decreased in basal area (18–41%), while Douglasfir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) basal area increased (21–58%). Conversely, mild warming (<2°C) coupled with greater increases in precipitation (12–13%) suggested an increase in forest cover and basal area by mid-century, with spruce and subalpine fir increasing in abundance. Overall, we found changes in forest tree species compositions were caused by the climate-mediated changes in fire regime (56–315% increase in annual area burned). Simulated changes in forest composition and fire regime under warming climates portray a landscape that shifts from lodgepole pine to Douglas-fir caused by the interaction between the magnitude and seasonality of future climate changes, by climate-induced changes in the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and by tree species response.

An Evaluation of the Forest Service Hazardous Fuels Treatment Program—Are We Treating Enough to Promote Resiliency or Reduce Hazard?

Authored by N.M. Vaillant; Published 2017

The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy recognizes that wildfire is a necessary natural process in many ecosystems and strives to reduce conflicts between fire-prone landscapes and people. In an effort to mitigate potential negative wildfire impacts proactively, the Forest Service fuels program reduces wildland fuels. As part of an internal program assessment, we evaluated the extent of fuel treatments and wildfire occurrence within lands managed by the National Forest System (NFS) between 2008 and 2012. We intersected fuel treatments with historic disturbance rates to assess the extent to which the program compensates for the disturbance deficit caused by fire suppression and with current wildfire hazard to evaluate whether fuel treatments strategically target high hazard locations. Annually, 45% of NFS lands that would have historically burned were disturbed by fuel treatments and characteristic wildfire, indicating that NFS lands remain in a “disturbance deficit.” The highest wildfire hazard class had the lowest percentage of area treated and the highest proportion of both wildfire of any severity and uncharacteristically high-severity wildfire, suggesting that an alternative distribution of fuel treatment locations will probably improve program effectiveness.

Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes

Authored by T. Schoennagel; Published 2017

Wildfires across western North America have increased in number and size over the past three decades, and this trend will continue in response to further warming. As a consequence, the wildland–urban interface is projected to experience substantially higher risk of climate-driven fires in the coming decades. Although many plants, animals, and ecosystem services benefit from fire, it is unknown how ecosystems will respond to increased burning and warming. Policy and management have focused primarily on specified resilience approaches aimed at resistance to wildfire and restoration of areas burned by wildfire through fire suppression and fuels management. These strategies are inadequate to address a new era of western wildfires. In contrast, policies that promote adaptive resilience to wildfire, by which people and ecosystems adjust and reorganize in response to changing fire regimes to reduce future vulnerability, are needed. Key aspects of an adaptive resilience approach are (i) recognizing that fuels reduction cannot alter regional wildfire trends; (ii) targeting fuels reduction to increase adaptation by some ecosystems and residential communities to more frequent fire; (iii) actively managing more wild and prescribed fires with a range of severities; and (iv) incentivizing and planning residential development to withstand inevitable wildfire. These strategies represent a shift in policy and management from restoring ecosystems based on historical baselines to adapting to changing fire regimes and from unsustainable defense of the wildland–urban interface to developing fire-adapted communities. We propose an approach that accepts wildfire as an inevitable catalyst of change and that promotes adaptive responses by ecosystems and residential communities to more warming and wildfire.

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.

Health and Environmental Impacts of Smoke from Vegetation Fires: A Review

Authored by Z. Liu; Published 2016

Smoke exposure is often an inevitable side effect of open vegetation fires (both planned and wild) and is an important public health concern. The objective of this paper is to summarize state-of-the-art knowledge on health and environmental impacts of smoke from vegetation fires, to identify research gaps, and to provide needed information to researchers, land managers, policymakers, health care workers, and the general public. The main components of vegetation fire smoke and their characterizations are identified and evaluated. Concentrations, emission ratios, and emission factors of smoke components and the combined health and environmental effects of all hazardous smoke components from vegetation fire smoke exposure are summarized. Trends in risk assessment of vegetation fire smoke, limitations of current research, and future research needs are discussed.

NFPA Conference & Expo

NFPA's Conference & Expo is a can't-miss showcase that combines an unrivaled educational conference with a comprehensive expo of the latest products and services. There is no better opportunity to learn, discover, network, and stay current with advances in your field.

Learn more HERE.

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.

Sharing contracted resources for fire suppression: engine dispatch in the Northwestern United States

Authored by K.M. Lyon; Published 2017

As demand for wildfire response resources grows across the globe, a central challenge is developing new and flexible systems and capacity to ensure that resources needed for fire response arrive when and where they are needed. Private contractors have become increasingly important in providing equipment and services to support agency wildfire suppression needs in the USA. Understanding the capacity of contracted resources for federal agency fire suppression needs is critical for preseason fire planning and response. Using National Resource Ordering and Status System data, we examined Northwest region engine dispatches from 2008 to 2015. The number of times and days engines were out on assignments increased over the study period, and dispatch centres routinely shared engines within and outside their geographic area. However, in 2015, not all of the available engines were recorded as utilised at peak demand during one of the largest fire seasons in the Northwest. This study provides insight into the ways in which fire managers share important resources such as engines and the information they have available to make decisions during an incident, and raises questions about what the right amount of capacity is to be able to respond in extreme fire years.

Using fire and grazing to maintain productive and ecologically resilient grasslands

What will you learn?
Participants will learn about the effects of grazing and fire on grassland wildlife and opportunities to manage grazing lands to accomplish production and wildlife goals. Learn more...


  • Chris Helzer, Ph.D., Director of Science, The Nature Conservancy, Aurora, NE

Session Details: Jun 1, 2017 2:00 pm US/Eastern     Duration: 01:00 (hh:mm)    
*** Please join the session 15 minutes prior to the start of the webinar. ***

All live webinars are recorded. Within a week of the live event, a View button provides access to the on-demand replay. CEUs are available for on-demand webinars.

Who should participate?
Conservationists, Wildlife Biologist, Land Owners, Grazing Lands Specialists, Technical Service Providers, Others

Effectiveness of public health messaging and communication channels during smoke events: A rapid systematic review

Authored by J.A. Fish; Published 2017

Exposure to smoke emitted from wildfire and planned burns (i.e., smoke events) has been associated with numerous negative health outcomes, including respiratory symptoms and conditions. This rapid review investigates recent evidence (post-2009) regarding the effectiveness of public health messaging during smoke events. The objectives were to determine the effectiveness of various communication channels used and public health messages disseminated during smoke events, for general and at-risk populations. A search of 12 databases and grey literature yielded 1775 unique articles, of which 10 were included in this review. Principal results were: 1) Smoke-related public health messages are communicated via a variety of channels, but limited evidence is available regarding their effectiveness for the general public or at-risk groups. 2) Messages that use simple language are more commonly recalled, understood, and complied with. Compliance differs according to socio-demographic characteristics. 3) At-risk groups may be advised to stay indoors before the general population, in order to protect the most vulnerable people in a community. The research included in this review was observational and predominantly descriptive, and is therefore unable to sufficiently answer questions regarding effectiveness. Experimental research, as well as evaluations, are required to examine the effectiveness of modern communication channels, channels to reach at-risk groups, and the ‘stay indoors’ message.