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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


Integrated Rangeland Fire Strategy

You are cordially invited to the August 3rd Joint WRP Natural Resources and Military Readiness, Homeland Security, Disaster Preparedness and Aviation Committee’s webinar on Integrated Rangeland Fire Strategy (Implementation of DOI Secretarial Order 3336). 

This webinar will run from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm Pacific.

DOI Secretarial Order 3336 was signed by Secretary Jewell on January 5, 2015. The goal is to protect, conserve, and restore the health of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem and, in particular, greater sage-grouse habitat. While initial efforts have been focused on the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California, lessons learned will be applied across the sagebrush biome. 

This presentation will be conducted by Mr. Mike Haske and Ms. Karen Prentice. Mike is the Implementation Manager for Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy and works for the Office of the Deputy Secretary. As the implementation manager, Mr. Haske is responsible for day-to-day status oversight and tracking, coordination and facilitation, identification of issues and resolving differences in support of the Action Plan developed to implement Secretarial Order 3336. Karen is the Healthy Land Initiative Coordinator, Bureau of Land Management and is heavily involved in development of some of the key deliverables called for by the Strategy. This webinar will cover:

- Background and purpose of the DOI Secretarial Order 3336 (https://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/rangeland/documents/SecretarialOrder3336.pdf

- Key areas of emphasis identified in the Integrated Rangeland Fire Strategy

- Initial Successes and efforts completed to date

- An overview of one of the key deliverables, the Conservation and Restoration Strategy, designed to provide a strategic, multi-scale approach for prioritizing areas for management and determining effective management strategies across the sagebrush biome

- Next Steps

 

If anyone is interested in joining, they should email Amy Duffy at amyduffy@westernregionalpartnership.org


Power of Embers

Ask an expert virtual workshop series

Steve Quarles, PH.D., IBHS Research Center 

Learn about the impacts embers are capable of and the little things around the home that are vulnerable. Quarles will share some information on why and how IBHS is doing wildfire ember research at the lab in South Carolina.

Register HERE


Disturbance, tree mortality, and implications for contemporary regional forest change in the Pacific Northwest

Authored by M.J. Reilly; Published 2016

Tree mortality is an important demographic process and primary driver of forest dynamics, yet there are relatively few plot-based studies that explicitly quantify mortality and compare the relative contribution of endogenous and exogenous disturbances at regional scales. We used repeated observations on 289,390 trees in 3673 1 ha plots on U.S. Forest Service lands in Oregon and Washington to compare distributions of mortality rates among natural disturbances and vegetation zones from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, a period characterized by drought, insect outbreaks, and large wildfires. Endogenous disturbances (e.g. pathogens, insects) were pervasive but operated at relatively low levels of mortality (<2.5%/yr) that rarely exceeded 5%/yr. Exogenous disturbances (e.g. fire, wind, landslides, avalanches) were less common and operated mostly at intermediate levels of mortality (5–25%/yr) indicative of partial-stand-replacement events. Stand-replacing mortality rates (⩾25%/yr) comprised a third of all exogenous disturbance events, occurring almost exclusively in fires. Fires were rare in wet vegetation zones and most rates were <2.5%/yr and associated with endogenous processes. Mortality rates in dry vegetation zones revealed a different set of dynamics including a more variable role of background mortality and greater proportions of mortality associated with fire and insects at partial- and stand-replacing levels. Mortality rates in early and middle stages of stand development were low compared to published rates, but rates >1%/yr in over half of the plots in late and old-growth stages corroborate previous findings of elevated mortality during the same period and indicate the potential for pervasive structural change across all vegetation zones. Partial- and stand-replacing fire were associated with most mortality, but affected a relatively small proportion of dry vegetation zones (3.1–7.1% and 2.1–5.1%, respectively). These disturbances have likely affected regional biodiversity through the creation of early seral habitat, increased within-stand heterogeneity, and restored some aspects of historical fire regimes, but there is a need to better understand corresponding structural and compositional changes. We demonstrate the variability in the drivers, magnitude, and extent of mortality across a biophysically diverse region and highlight the need to incorporate and characterize the effects of mortality at intermediate levels to develop a more comprehensive understanding of regional forest dynamics.


Quantifying the influence of previously burned areas on suppression effectiveness and avoided exposure: a case study of the Las Conchas Fire

Authored by M.P. Thompson; Published 2016

We present a case study of the Las Conchas Fire (2011) to explore the role of previously burned areas (wildfires and prescribed fires) on suppression effectiveness and avoided exposure. Methodological innovations include characterisation of the joint dynamics of fire growth and suppression activities, development of a fire line effectiveness framework, and quantification of relative fire line efficiencies inside and outside of previously burned areas. We provide descriptive statistics of several fire line effectiveness metrics. Additionally, we leverage burn probability modelling to examine how burned areas could have affected fire spread potential and subsequent exposure of highly valued resources and assets to fire. Results indicate that previous large fires exhibited significant and variable impacts on suppression effectiveness and fire spread potential. Most notably the Cerro Grande Fire (2000) likely exerted a significant and positive influence on containment, and in the absence of that fire the community of Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory could have been exposed to higher potential for loss. Although our scope of inference is limited results are consistent with other research, suggesting that fires can exert negative feedbacks that can reduce resistance to control and enhance the effectiveness of suppression activities on future fires.


Wilderness in the 21st Century: A Framework for Testing Assumptions about Ecological Intervention in Wilderness Using a Case Study in Fire Ecology in the Rocky Mountains

Authored by C.E. Naficy; Published 2016

Changes in the climate and in key ecological processes are prompting increased debate about ecological restoration and other interventions in wilderness. The prospect of intervention in wilderness raises legal, scientific, and values-based questions about the appropriateness of possible actions. In this article, we focus on the role of science to elucidate the potential need for intervention. We review the meaning of “untrammeled” from the 1964 Wilderness Act to aid our understanding of the legal context for potential interventions in wilderness. We explore the tension between restraint and active intervention in managing wilderness and introduce a framework for testing ecological assumptions when evaluating restoration proposals. We illustrate use of the framework in the restoration of fire regimes and fuel conditions in ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of the US Rocky Mountains. Even in this relatively well-studied example, we find that the assumptions underlying proposed interventions in wilderness need to be critically evaluated and tested before new, more intensive management paradigms are embraced.


Progress in wilderness fire science: Embracing complexity

Authored by C. Miller; Published 2016

Wilderness has played an invaluable role in the development of wildland fire science. Since Agee’s review of the subject 15 years ago, tremendous progress has been made in the development of models and data, in understanding the complexity of wildland fire as a landscape process, and in appreciating the social factors that influence the use of wilderness fire. Regardless of all we have learned, though, the reality is that fire remains an extraordinarily complex process with variable effects that create essential heterogeneity in ecosystems. Whereas some may view this variability as a management impediment, for others it provides a path forward. As research has shown, embracing fire in all its complexity and expanding its use can help reduce fuels, restore resilient landscapes, and contain costs. Wilderness fire science will continue to play an important role in understanding opportunities for using fire, its role in ecosystems, its risks and benefits, and the influence of risk perception on decisionmaking.


The impact of aging on laboratory fire behaviour in masticated shrub fuelbeds of California and Oregon, USA

Authored by J.K. Kreye; Published 2016

Mastication of shrubs and small trees to reduce fire hazard has become a widespread management practice, yet many aspects of the fire behaviour of these unique woody fuelbeds remain poorly understood. To examine the effects of fuelbed aging on fire behaviour, we conducted laboratory burns with masticated Arctostaphylos spp. and Ceanothus spp. woody debris that ranged from 2 to 16 years since treatment. Masticated fuels that were 10 years or older burned with 18 to 29% shorter flame heights and 19% lower fireline intensities compared with the younger fuelbeds across three different fuel loads (25, 50 and 75 Mg ha–1). Older fuelbeds smouldered for almost 50% longer than the younger masticated fuelbeds. Fuel consumption was 96% in the two higher fuel load categories regardless of fuelbed age, whereas consumption was 77% in the lighter fuel load. Fire intensity in masticated fuels may decrease over time owing to particle degradation, but in dry environments where decomposition is slow, combustion of the remaining fuels may still pose risks for tree mortality and smoke production associated with protracted smouldering.


Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the coterminous United States

Authored by G. Wigtil; Published 2016

The hazards-of-place model posits that vulnerability to environmental hazards depends on both biophysical and social factors. Biophysical factors determine where wildfire potential is elevated, whereas social factors determine where and how people are affected by wildfire. We evaluated place vulnerability to wildfire hazards in the coterminous US. We developed a social vulnerability index using principal component analysis and evaluated it against existing measures of wildfire potential and wildland–urban interface designations. We created maps showing the coincidence of social vulnerability and wildfire potential to identify places according to their vulnerability to wildfire. We found that places with high wildfire potential have, on average, lower social vulnerability than other places, but nearly 10% of all housing in places with high wildfire potential also exhibits high social vulnerability. We summarised our data by states to evaluate trends at a subnational level. Although some regions, such as the South-east, had more housing in places with high wildfire vulnerability, other regions, such as the upper Midwest, exhibited higher rates of vulnerability than expected. Our results can help to inform wildfire prevention, mitigation and recovery planning, as well as reduce wildfire hazards affecting vulnerable places and populations.


Burning the legacy? Influence of wildfire reburn on dead wood dynamics in a temperate conifer forest

Authored by D.C. Donato; Published 2016

Dynamics of dead wood, a key component of forest structure, are not well described for mixed- severity fi re regimes with widely varying fi re intervals. A prominent form of such variation is when two stand- replacing fi res occur in rapid succession, commonly termed an early- seral “reburn.” These events are thought to strongly infl uence dead wood abundance in a regenerating forest, but this hypothesis has scarcely been tested. We measured dead wood following two overlapping wildfi res in coniferdominated forests of the Klamath Mountains, Oregon (USA), to assess whether reburning (15- yr interval, with >90% vegetation mortality) resulted in lower dead wood abundance and altered character relative to once- burned stands, and how any diff erences may project through succession. Total dead wood mass (standing + down) following the reburn (169 ± 83 Mg/ha [95%CI]) was 45% lower than after a single fire (309 ± 87 Mg/ha). Lower levels in reburn stands were due to, in roughly equal parts, additional combustion and greater time for decay. Although a single fi re in mature forest both consumed and created dead wood (by killing large live trees), a reburn only consumed dead wood (few large live trees to kill). Charred biomass (black carbon generation) was higher in reburned stands by a factor of 2 for logs and 8 for snags. Projecting these stands forward (notwithstanding future disturbances) suggests: (1) the near- halving of dead- wood mass in reburn stands will persist for ~50 yr until the recruitment of new material begins, and (2) the reburn signature on dead wood abundance will remain apparent for over a century. These findings demonstrate how a single stochastic variation in disturbance interval can impart lasting infl uence on dead- wood succession, reinforcing the notion that many temperate forests exist in a state of dead- wood disequilibrium governed by site- specifi c disturbance history. Accounting for such variation in disturbance impacts is crucial to better understanding forests with complex mixed- severity disturbance regimes and with increasing stochasticity under climatic change.


A spatial database for restoration management capability on national forests in the Pacific Northwest USA

Authored by C. Ringo; Published 2016

Description: Understanding the capacity to reduce wildfire risk and restore dry forests on Western national forests is a key part of prioritizing new accelerated restoration programs initiated by the Forest Service. Although a number of social and biophysical factors influence the ability to implement restoration programs, one key driver is the suite of forest plan land designations and associated management directions. These land use designations and conservation reserves, which are intended to provide an array of ecosystem services (recreation, wildlife, water, timber, research, etc.), were created under the National Forest Management Act. In many cases, they have subsequently been updated to account for legislated protection for threatened and endangered species. Individual land designations have distinct properties in terms of biophysical settings, fire regimes, and a myriad of management constraints intended to conserve landscape resiliency over time. Despite the importance of forest plan designations for assessing restoration capacity, standardized spatial data at regional scales do not exist, making comprehensive regional and national assessments of restoration potentials and priorities difficult. As part of a broader study of restoration potential in the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region, we obtained spatial data from existing forest plans and categorized more than 800 different land designations into five distinct categories according to management restrictions, then created a seamless spatial dataset for the region. We then examined the composition of the different categories of management with respect to the dominant fire regime. We also generated an atlas of management categories (which we are calling “Land Classes” of the national forests in the region, which can be used to understand the spatial distribution of management restrictions on individual forests. The data enable broader scale assessments and prioritization analyses within the region, and provide a case study template for other regions to follow to further advance national scale assessments of restoration and fuel management potential.


Yurok Prescribed Fire Training Exchange

Objectives: To develop community capacity to safely and effectively reintroduce fire onto the local landscape. Additionally, this training will focus learning from and about the tribes of the Pacific Northwest and their traditional and contemporary use of prescribed fire.
Target Group: This training is designed to integrate a diverse group of fire practitioners with varying degrees of knowledge and experience. Participants include tribal members, tribal forestry employees, local contractors, federal and state firefighters, volunteer firefighters from the community, The Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers, university students, county/regional regulators, and out-of-region and international guests and fire workers.

Registration Fee: The regular fee is $200. University students pay $100. Waivers are available for participants who bring equipment (e.g. engines, UTVs, etc.) or who provide their own lodging and accommodations. Please note that the
registration fee is not pro-rated based on the amount of time at TREX. Description: The training is organized as an incident, using the Incident Command System. Participants will serve in qualified and trainee firefighting positions on a burn team and will assist with preparing, scouting, briefing, igniting, holding, mop-up, and patrol on numerous controlled burns in the area. We will also complete pre- and post-fire monitoring, train with equipment, practice fire line leadership skills, and learn about local fire ecology and fire management.

There will be field trips to areas burned in recent wildfires and presentations from local tribal elders, scientists, land managers, and practitioners. Participants will also present briefings about the fire regimes in their home region and discuss management challenges and opportunities there. In addition, participants will practice for local media interviews.

For more information, open the attachment.


Job Opportunity - Postdoctoral Research Ecologist/Forester

Fire Ecology Research with the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station, Resource Monitoring & Assessment Program - Corvallis or Portland, OR

Candidates will be evaluated based on their response to this Outreach notice. Please respond by August 15, 2016 and provide all of the necessary information to be considered for this opportunity.

See attachment for more information.