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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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JFSP Regions

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

Hot Topics


Wildland fire management: insights from a foresight panel

Authored by R.L. Olson; Published 2015

Wildland fire management faces unprecedented challenges in the 21st century: the increasingly apparent effects of climate change, more people and structures in the wildland-urban interface, growing costs associated with wildfire management, and the rise of high-impact fires, to name a few. Given these significant and growing challenges, conventional fire management approaches are unlikely to be effective in the future. Innovative and forward-looking approaches are needed. This study explored wildland fire management futures by using methods and diverse perspectives from futures research. To gain foresight for wildland fire management, we convened a foresight panel consisting of seven leading academic and professional futurists outside of the wildfire community and two wildfire professionals. We engaged the panelists in a series of structured online discussions to elicit their insights and perspectives on the future of wildland fire management. There are five broad areas where the foresight panel members were in full agreement. (1) The level of uncertainty about external developments and future conditions that will set the context for wildland fire management is significantly greater than is recognized in current planning. (2) As conditions change, the traditional fire prevention and suppression approach to wildfire management will prove unsustainable. (3) A new fire resilience approach is emerging as an alternative to traditional viewpoints and practices. (4) All the major strategies needed to implement this approach are already familiar to wildfire managers. (5) There are strong short-term barriers to adopting the fire resilience approach, but the panelists believe its adoption is nearly inevitable between now and mid-century.


Understanding gaps between the risk perceptions of wildland-urban interface (WUI) residents and wildfire professionals

Authored by J.R. Meldrum; Published 2015

Research across a variety of risk domains finds that the risk perceptions of professionals and the public differ. Such risk perception gaps occur if professionals and the public understand individual risk factors differently or if they aggregate risk factors into overall risk differently. The nature of such divergences, whether based on objective inaccuracies or on differing perspectives, is important to understand. However, evidence of risk perception gaps typically pertains to general, overall risk levels; evidence of and details about mismatches between the specific level of risk faced by individuals and their perceptions of that risk is less available. We examine these issues with a paired data set of professional and resident assessments of parcel-level wildfire risk for private property in a wildland-urban interface community located in western Colorado, United States. We find evidence of a gap between the parcel-level risk assessments of a wildfire professional and numerous measures of residents' risk assessments. Overall risk ratings diverge for the majority of properties, as do judgments about many specific property attributes and about the relative contribution of these attributes to a property's overall level of risk. However, overall risk gaps are not well explained by many factors commonly found to relate to risk perceptions. Understanding the nature of these risk perception gaps can facilitate improved communication by wildfire professionals about how risks can be mitigated on private lands. These results also speak to the general nature of individual-level risk perception.


Introduction to state-and-transition simulation modeling of landscape vegetation dynamics

Lecture Event from The Nature Conservancy LANDFIRE Team

This two-day course provides a foundation for developing and running state-and-transition simulation models of landscape vegetation change using the ST-Sim software (www.syncrosim.com). The course covers state-and-transition simulation modeling concepts, how to use ST-Sim to create simple models of vegetation change, and how to run those models and interpret the results. Case studies using state-and-transition simulation models in a range of ecosystems will also be presented, along with insights into how to organize your own model building initiative.

The course is designed for those who are new to ST-Sim and/or new to state-and-transition simulation modeling. It is also recommended for those who have been introduced to state-and-transition simulation models through workshops or projects, but who now wish to build and run models themselves. No particular software knowledge or disciplinary expertise is required.

Participants are expected to bring their own computer (running Windows XP or higher) for the training sessions – if this is not possible, please contact us to make alternate arrangements. Participants are also responsible for the cost of their accomodation, meals and travel during the course.


Five-year legacy of wildfire and salvage logging impacts on nutrient runoff and aquatic plant, invertebrate, and fish productivity

Authored by U. Silins; Published 2014

Ecohydrological linkages between phosphorus (P) production, stream algae, benthic invertebrate, and fish communities were studied for 4 years after severe wildfire in the Rocky Mountains (Alberta, Canada). Mean concentrations of all forms of P (soluble reactive, total dissolved, particulate, and total) were 2 to 13 times greater in burned and post-fire salvage-logged streams than in unburned streams (p  < 0.001). Post-disturbance recovery of P was slow with differences in P-discharge relationships still evident 5 years after the fire (p  < 0.001). Coupled P and sediment interactions were likely responsible for slow recovery of P regimes in fire-disturbed watersheds. P loading was associated with strong ecological responses in stream biota. Annual algal productivity was 5 to 71 times greater in streams within burned watersheds than in reference watersheds and persisted for 5 years after the fire (p < 0.001). Elevated algal production was associated with strong differences in benthic invertebrate community structure, including greater invertebrate densities, biomass, species diversity, and shifts in species composition. Monotonic shifts in invertebrate stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios indicated increased consumption of autochthonous food sources and effects on energy pathways for invertebrates from fire-affected streams. Wildfire-related changes at lower trophic lead to increases in size (weight and length) and growth rate (weight : age ratios) of cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki). This cascading series of effects of wildfire on stream productivity (primary production, secondary invertebrate consumers, and fish) may be long-lived legacies of wildfire because of the slow recovery of P regimes.


Catching Fire? Social Interactions, Beliefs, and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Behaviors

Authored by K. Dickinson; Published 2015

Social interactions are widely recognized as a potential influence on risk-related behaviors. We present a mediation model in which social interactions (classified as formal/informal and generic/fire-specific) are associated with beliefs about wildfire risk and mitigation options, which in turn shape wildfire mitigation behaviors. We test this model using survey data from fire-prone areas of Colorado. In several cases, our results are consistent with the mediation hypotheses for mitigation actions specifically targeting vegetative fuel reduction. Perceived wildfire probability partially mediates the relationship between several interaction types and vegetative mitigation behaviors, while perceptions of aesthetic barriers and lack of information play a mediating role in the case of fire-specific formal interactions. Our results suggest that social interactions may allow mitigation and prevention behaviors to “catch fire” within a community, and that wildfire education programs could leverage these interactions to enhance programmatic benefits.


Role of buoyant flame dynamics in wildfire spread

Authored by M.A. Finney; Published 2015

Large wildfires of increasing frequency and severity threaten local populations and natural resources and contribute carbon emissions into the earth-climate system. Although wildfires have been researched and modeled for decades, no verifiable physical theory of spread is available to form the basis for the precise predictions needed to manage fires more effectively and reduce their environmental, economic, ecological and climate impacts. Here, we report new experiments conducted at multiple scales which appear to reveal how wildfire spread derives from the tight coupling between flame dynamics induced by buoyancy and fine-particle response to convection. Convective cooling of the fine-sized fuel particles in wildland vegetation is observed to efficiently offset heating by thermal radiation until convective heating by contact with flames and hot gasses occurs. The structure and intermittency of flames that ignite fuel particles were found to correlate with instabilities induced by the strong buoyancy of the flame zone itself. Discovery that ignition in wildfires is critically dependent upon non-steady flame convection governed by buoyant and inertial interaction advances both theory and the physical basis for practical modeling.


Connecting Research to Practice: The Evolving World of Extension and Knowledge Exchange

Conference Event from IUFRO

The FINAL CALL for Abstracts closes 9 April 2015.
Abstracts should be no more than 200 words, and should include the title, all authors and affiliations, and indicate whether they are to be considered for either an oral or poster presentation, or both. Please include the name and email for the primary contact and title your email: "LASTNAME"_IUFRO_EKE

Oral presentation slots are limited to 30.  Those not accepted for an oral presentation will we accepted for a poster presentation.

Please email your abstract to janean.creighton@oregonstate.edu

For more information, click HERE


Winter grazing can reduce wildfire size, intensity and behaviour in a shrub-grassland

Authored by K.W. Davies; Published 2015

An increase in mega-fires and wildfires is a global issue that is expected to become worse with climate change. Fuel treatments are often recommended to moderate behaviour and decrease severity of wildfires; however, the extensive nature of rangelands limits the use of many treatments. Dormant-season grazing has been suggested as a rangeland fuel treatment, but its effects on fire characteristics are generally unknown. We investigated the influence of dormant-season (winter) grazing by cattle (Bos taurus) on fuel characteristics, fire behaviour and area burned in Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis) shrub-grassland communities in south-eastern Oregon, USA. Winter grazing was applied for 5 years before burning and compared with ungrazed areas. Winter grazing decreased fine fuels and increased fine fuel moisture, which reduced flame height and depth, rate of spread and area burned. Winter-grazed areas also had lower maximum temperature and heat loading during fires than ungrazed areas, and thereby decreased risk of fire-induced mortality of important herbaceous functional groups. These results suggest that winter grazing may be a fuel management treatment that can be applied across vast shrub-grasslands to decrease wildfire risk and fire intensity to mediate climate change effects on wildfire activity.


Wildfire and the Future of Water Supply

Authored by K.D. Bladon; Published 2014

In many parts of the world, forests provide high quality water for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and ecological needs, with water supplies in those regions inextricably linked to forest health. Wildfires have the potential to have devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems and community drinking water supply through impacts on water quantity and quality. In recent decades, a combination of fuel load accumulation, climate change, extensive droughts, and increased human presence in forests have resulted in increases in area burned and wildfire severity—a trend predicted to continue. Thus, the implications of wildfire for many downstream water uses are increasingly concerning, particularly the provision of safe drinking water, which may require additional treatment infrastructure and increased operations and maintenance costs in communities downstream of impacted landscapes. A better understanding of the effects of wildfire on water is needed to develop effective adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect globally critical water supplies originating in forested environments.


6th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress

Conference Event from Association for Fire Ecology

The Association for Fire Ecology (AFE) is pleased to announce the 6th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress to be held in San Antonio, Texas, USA.  Since 2000, AFE has hosted a Fire Congress every three years. These events are the largest, most comprehensive meetings on the research and management of wildland fire that are held anywhere in the world.  They provide unparalleled exposure to the complexity, breadth, and depth of the field of wildland fire.  Providing a respect­ful, inclusive forum for a diverse range of topics and opinions is one of the founding principles that has been part of the success of the Fire Congress series.  We hope you will join us to share with, learn from, and be inspired by fellow attendees who will gather from across the globe.

Call for special sessions & more http://ow.ly/KgH1t


Colorado Wildland Fire Conference 2015

This year's conference is designed to provide the framework for becoming a Fire Adapted Community.  Anyone wishing to learn more about how they can reduce their community's vulnerability to wildfire is welcome to attend. 

The conference will provide a variety of educational tracks tailored to real-estate agents, developers, professional planners, insurance industry representatives, community leaders, contractors as well as firefighters and emergency service professionals!

 

Call for Presentations!

We are now accepting presentation proposals for the Colorado Wildland Fire Conference, which will occur September 24 – 26, 2015 at the Viceroy Snowmass in Snowmass Village, CO. This conference is a great opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise about creating Fire Adapted Communities and efforts to address wildfire risk. Please fill out the online Google form LINK

Presentation proposals are due Friday, May 1, 2015 by 11:59 p.m.


Wildfire smoke and public health risk

Authored by F. Reisen; Published 2015

Wildfire activity is predicted to increase with global climate change, resulting in longer fire seasons and larger areas burned. The emissions from fires are highly variable owing to differences in fuel, burning conditions and other external environmental factors. The smoke that is generated can impact human populations spread over vast geographical areas. Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of pollutants that can undergo physical and chemical transformation processes during transport and can have major impacts on air quality and public health. This review looks at the main features of smoke that should be considered in the assessment of public health risk. It describes the current state of knowledge and discusses how smoke is produced, what factors affect emissions and smoke distribution, and what constituents of smoke are most likely to cause adverse health effects.


Interval squeeze: altered fire regimes and demographic responses interact to threaten woody species persistence as climate changes

Authored by N.J. Enright; Published 2015

Projected effects of climate change across many ecosystems globally include more frequent disturbance by
fire and reduced plant growth due to warmer (and especially drier) conditions. Such changes affect species
– particularly fire-intolerant woody plants – by simultaneously reducing recruitment, growth, and survival.
Collectively, these mechanisms may narrow the fire interval window compatible with population
persistence, driving species to extirpation or extinction. We present a conceptual model of these combined
effects, based on synthesis of the known impacts of climate change and altered fire regimes on plant
demography, and describe a syndrome we term “interval squeeze”. This model predicts that interval
squeeze will increase woody plant extinction risk and change ecosystem structure, composition, and carbon
storage, especially in regions projected to become both warmer and drier. These predicted changes
demand new approaches to fire management that will maximize the in situ adaptive capacity of species to
respond to climate change and fire regime change.


The rising cost of wildfire operations: effects on the Forest Service's non-fire work

Authored by U.States Dep Agriculture; Published 2015

Over 100 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service to manage America’s 193-million acre national forests and grasslands for the benefit of all Americans. Today, that mission is being consumed by the ever-increasing costs of fighting fires.This report documents the growth over the past 20 years of the portion of the Forest Service’s budget that is dedicated to fire, and the debilitating impact those rising costs are having on the recreation, restoration, planning, and other activities of the Forest Service.