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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


The importance of disturbance by fire and other abiotic and biotic factors in driving cheatgrass invasion varies based on invasion stage

Authored by B.K. Kerns; Published 2017

Disturbances create fluctuations in resource availability that alter abiotic and biotic constraints. Exotic invader response may be due to multiple factors related to disturbance regimes and complex interactions between other small- and largescale abiotic and biotic processes that may vary across invasion stages. We explore how cheatgrass responds to both frequency and season of prescribed burning for a 10-year period in ponderosa pine forested stands. To understand interactions of fire disturbance, other abiotic factors, biotic resistance, and propagule pressure, we use long-term data from different spatial scales representing different invasion stages (local establishment or spread and broader scale extent/impact) to model cheatgrass dynamics. We found that after 10 years, cheatgrass cover increased with fall burning regardless of burn frequency (1 burn vs. 3 burns). There was no evidence that cheatgrass invasion is decreasing through time even in areas burned only once. Factors important for explaining local fine-scale cheatgrass establishment and spread, and broader scale extent/impact varied. The spatial extent of the first burns facilitated fine-scale cheatgrass establishment while bare soil cover constrained establishment. Biotic resistance, in the form of native annual forb cover, constrained fine-scale cheatgrass spread. Initial cheatgrass abundance in 2002, a factor related to propagule pressure, was key for explaining the broader scale extent/impact of cheatgrass by 2012. Biotic resistance, in the form of native perennial grass cover, constrained extent/impact but only when initial cheatgrass abundance was low. Our findings regarding factors affecting invasion dynamics may be useful to consider for future restoration and conservation efforts in burned ponderosa pine forests.


Modeling Dynamic Fuels with an Index System: MoD-FIS in the Great Basin & Southwestern U.S.

This webinar is co-hosted by LANDFIRE and members of the Joint Fire Science Program: Great Basin Fire Science, Southwest Fire Science, and Northern Rockies Fire Science. Content will address challenges that managers of large landscapes deal with in these regions.

The LANDFIRE Program strives to produce consistent fire behavior fuel model grids for the U.S. These models are relevant for  predicting fire behavior, including spread and intensity, during average conditions; however, they often fall short during drought or seasonably dry conditions.

To address the need for that information, LANDFIRE developed a seasonal product named the Modeling Dynamic-Fuels with an Index System (MoD-FIS).  These provisional products have been released for the Southwest and Great Basin regions, and are ready for testing and review by those who use LANDFIRE data. In this webinar, Charley Martin and Tobin Smail offer a MoD-FIS primer, explain how the products can be used in these regions, and solicit users’ input and review. Click here to register for this webinar NOW!


Establishing the Tribal Mitigation Planning Framework

FEMA Region 10 supports 271 tribes of which many have proactively developed a tribal mitigation plan. Tribal mitigation planning provides the framework for a multidisciplinary approach to natural hazards risk reduction. Join the FEMA Region 10 Mitigation Planning team as we provide an overview on tribal mitigation planning and guest speakers discuss how their respective tribes have approached mitigation planning. Topics include

•             Tribal mitigation planning requirements

•             The similarities and differences between tribal requirements and state/local planning requirements

•             Technical assistance to develop mitigation plan

•             Funding available to develop a plan/implement projects

1 CFM credit is available.

Registration (Free)

Go to https://atkinsglobalna.webex.com/atkinsglobalna/k2/j.php?MTID=t86284815895878684055a1520c33b850 and register (Remember, your registration is unique to you. Don’t share it. Encourage others to individually register)


Historical Fire–Climate Relationships in Contrasting Interior Pacific Northwest Forest Types

Authored by J.D. Johnston; Published 2017

Describing the climate influences on historical wildland fire will aid managers in planning for future change.  This study uses existing historical climate reconstructions and a new fire history from the southern Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon, USA, to: 1) characterize historical fire-climate relationships, and 2) determine if climatic influences on fire differed among dry sites dominated by ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex Laws) and more productive sites with significant older fire intolerant grand fir (Abies grandis [Dougl.] Lindl.) structure.


NWFSC Fire Facts: What is? WUI

Authored by N.W.Fire Scien Consortium; Published 2017

Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is the area where human development and the natural world meet or intermingle. Read more at Fire Facts: What is? WUI.


How to generate and interpret fire characteristics charts for the U.S. fire danger rating system

Authored by F.A. Heinsch; Published 2017

The fire characteristics chart is a graphical method of presenting U.S. National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) indexes and components as well as primary surface or crown fire behavior characteristics. Computer software has been developed to produce fire characteristics charts for both fire danger and fire behavior in a format suitable for inclusion in reports and presentations. Scales, colors, labels, and legends can be modified as needed. The fire characteristics chart for fire behavior has been described previously (Andrews et al. 2011). This report describes the fire characteristics chart for fire danger, which displays the relationships among the Spread Component, Energy Release Component, and Burning Index by plotting the three values as a single point. Indices calculated by using FireFamilyPlus can be imported into the fire danger characteristics chart software. Example applications of this software for comparing fire seasons, weather stations, and fire danger rating fuel models are presented. READ MORE AND PDF >>


Recovery and adaptation after wildfire, 2000-2013

Becoming a fire-adapted community that can live with wildfire is envisioned as a continuous, iterative process of adaptation. We combined national and case study research to examine how experience with wildfire alters the built environment and community- and government-level wildfire mitigation, planning, and regulations. By tracking changing in buildings post-fire (2000-2013) nationally we found that rebuilding was relatively low within several years of a fire incident, however, new development often continued. Studies of policy change revealed that for some communities, the fire was a focusing event that led to changes in regulations or planning (for example, modifying building codes or creating a CWPP). In other communities, destructive fire did not spur adaptation through changes in governmental policy. In some communities, local government officials thought current policies were effective and factors beyond their control such as extreme weather were to blame for structure losses In other cases, wildfire losses were accepted as a risk of living on the landscape, considered an isolated incident that affected few or was unlikely to be repeated, or enacting regulations was seen as incompatible with local norms and government capacity. We conclude that adaptation to wildfire through WUI regulations depends on multiple factors, including past experience with fire and the geographic extent and scale of the fire event relative to the local community and its government. While communities did not often pursue changes in WUI regulations, experience with wildfire was frequently cited as the impetus for other adaptive responses, such as improving emergency response or fire suppression, and expanding education and interaction with homeowners, such as Firewise programs or government support for fuel mitigation on private lands.

Register HERE.


Climate, wildfire, and erosion ensemble foretells more sediment in western USA watersheds

Authored by J.B. Sankey; J. Kreitler; T.J. Hawbaker; J.L. McVay; M.E. Miller; E.R. Mueller; N.M. Vaillant; S.E. Lowe; Published 2017

The area burned annually by wildfires is expected to increase worldwide due to climate change. Burned areas increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, which can increase sedimentation in downstream rivers and reservoirs. However, which watersheds will be impacted by future wildfires is largely unknown. Using an ensemble of climate, fire, and erosion models, we show that postfire sedimentation is projected to increase for nearly nine tenths of watersheds by >10% and for more than one third of watersheds by >100% by the 2041 to 2050 decade in the western USA. The projected increases are statistically significant for more than eight tenths of the watersheds. In the western USA, many human communities rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where sedimentation is projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities, in addition to affecting stream channel stability and aquatic ecosystems.


Multi-temporal LiDAR and Landsat quantification of fire-induced changes to forest structure

Authored by R. McCarley; Published 2017

Measuring post-fire effects at landscape scales is critical to an ecological understanding of wildfire effects. Predominantly this is accomplished with either multi-spectral remote sensing data or through ground-based field sampling plots.While these methods are important, field data is usually limited to opportunistic post-fire observations, and spectral data often lacks validation with specific variables of change. Additional uncertainty remains regarding how best to account for environmental variables influencing fire effects (e.g., weather) for which observational data cannot easily be acquired, and whether pre-fire agents of change such as bark beetle and timber harvest impact model accuracy. This study quantifies wildfire effects by correlating changes in forest structure derived from multi-temporal Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) acquisitions to multi-temporal spectral changes captured by the Landsat Thematic Mapper and Operational Land Imager for the 2012 Pole Creek Fire in central Oregon. Spatial regression modeling was assessed as a methodology to account for spatial autocorrelation, and model consistency was quantified across areas impacted by pre-fire mountain pine beetle and timber harvest. The strongest relationship (pseudo-r2=0.86, p<0.0001) was observed between the ratio of shortwave infrared and near infrared reflectance (d74) and LiDAR-derived estimate of canopy cover change. Relationships between percentage of LiDAR returns in forest strata and spectral indices generally increased in strength with strata height. Structural measurements made closer to the ground were not well correlated. The spatial regression approach improved all relationships, demonstrating its utility, but model performance declined across pre-fire agents of change, suggesting that such studies should stratify by pre-fire forest condition. This study establishes that spectral indices such as d74 and dNBR are most sensitive to wildfire-caused structural changes such as reduction in canopy cover and perform best when that structure has not been reduced pre-fire.


Predicting post-fire tree mortality for 14 conifers in the Pacific Northwest, USA: Model evaluation, development, and thresholds

Authored by L.M. Grayson; Published 2017

Fire is a driving force in the North American landscape and predicting post-fire tree mortality is vital to land management. Post-fire tree mortality can have substantial economic and social impacts, and natural resource managers need reliable predictive methods to anticipate potential mortality following fire events. Current fire mortality models are limited to a few species and regions, notably Pinus ponderosa and Pseudotsuga menziesii in the western United States. The efficacy of existing mortality models to predict fire-induced tree mortality is central to effective forest management. This study validated 54 logistic regression mortality models from seven published articles and two sets of mortality guidelines from two sources. Survival and a suite of fire injury metrics were monitored for 3654 trees representing 14 species that burned in fires between 2002 and 2009 in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Tree species included Abies amabilis, A. concolor, A. grandis, A. lasiocarpa, Calocedrus decurrens, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, C. nootkatensis, Thuja plicata, Pinus contorta, P. lambertiana, P. monticola, Picea engelmannii, Larix occidentalis, and Tsuga heterophylla. Existing logistic models adequately described post-fire mortality of A. concolor, A. lasiocarpa, C. decurrens, C. lawsoniana, L. occidentalis, P. engelmannii, P. contorta, and P. lambertiana. We also evaluated predictive accuracy of two published mortality guidelines that apply to species in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to validating existing models, we also developed new logistic regression models and simplified mortality guidelines, or thresholds. We created new logistic regression models for species with adequate sample size and which had no existing species-specific model (A. amabilis, A. grandis, P. monticola, and T. heterophylla). Most recommended models contained a crown scorch term and either a cambium injury term or a bark beetle infestation term. New postfire mortality thresholds were developed for A. amabilis, A. concolor, A. grandis, P. contorta, P. lambertiana, P. monticola, P. engelmannii, L. occidentalis, and T. heterophylla. We were not able to validate or develop acceptable logistic mortality models or thresholds for C. nootkatensis or T. plicata. Injury to cambium and crown were both significant predictors in all but one set of new thresholds. The validation of existing models and guidelines allows managers to determine which models will likely perform best and identifies knowledge gaps where no adequate models exist to predict post-fire tree mortality. The new logistic regression models and threshold guidelines provide improved accuracy, with simpler application for fire and forest management.


A framework for developing safe and effective large-fire response in a new fire management paradigm

Authored by C.J. Dunn; Published 2017

The impacts of wildfires have increased in recent decades because of historical forest and fire management, a rapidly changing climate, and an increasingly populated wildland urban interface. This increasingly complex fire environment highlights the importance of developing robust tools to support risk-informed decision making. While tools have been developed to aid fire management, few have focused on large-fire management and those that have typically simplified the decision environment such that they are not operationally relevant. Additionally, fire managers need to be able to evaluate alternative response strategies that lead to tradeoff analyses balancing fire impacts, responder exposure, financial and resource investments, and probability of success. In this review, we describe limitations in existing operational research models from the perspective of large fire management decisions. We identify a broader set of objectives, decisions and constraints to be integrated into the next generation operational research models. Including these changes would support evaluation of a suite of response options and the efficient resource packages necessary to achieve response objectives, aiding decision maker’s ability to minimize responder exposure while reducing the social, ecological and economic impacts of wildfires. We follow with a proposed framework for expanding current large fire decision support systems, and conclude by briefly highlighting critical research needs and organizational changes necessary to create and implement these tools and overcome the negative consequences of positive feedbacks derived from historical and current wildfire management policies and strategies.


A Century of Wildland Fire Research - Contributions to Long-term Approaches for Wildland Fire Management: Proceedings of a Workshop

Authored by ; Published 2017

Although ecosystems, humans, and fire have coexisted for millennia, changes in geology, ecology, hydrology, and climate as well as sociocultural, regulatory, and economic factors have converged to make wildland fire management exceptionally challenging for U.S. federal, state, and local authorities. Given the mounting, unsustainable costs and difficulty translating existing wildland fire science into policy, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine organized a 1-day workshop to focus on how a century of wildland fire research can contribute to improving wildland fire management. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.