Subscribe to our newsletter
YouTube logo
Facebook logo
Twitter logo
YouTube logo

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

Influence of landscape structure, topography, and forest type on spatial variation in historical fire regimes, Central Oregon, USA

Authored by A.G. Merschel; Published 2018


In the interior Northwest, debate over restoring mixed-conifer forests after a century of fire exclusion is hampered by poor understanding of the pattern and causes of spatial variation in historical fire regimes.


To identify the roles of topography, landscape structure, and forest type in driving spatial variation in historical fire regimes in mixed-conifer forests of central Oregon.


We used tree rings to reconstruct multicentury fire and forest histories at 105 plots over 10,393 ha. We classified fire regimes into four types and assessed whether they varied with topography, the location of fuel-limited pumice basins that inhibit fire spread, and an updated classification of forest type.


We identified four fire-regime types and six forest types. Although surface fires were frequent and often extensive, severe fires were rare in all four types. Fire regimes varied with some aspects of topography (elevation), but not others (slope or aspect) and with the distribution of pumice basins. Fire regimes did not strictly co-vary with mixed-conifer forest types.


Our work reveals the persistent influence of landscape structure on spatial variation in historical fire regimes and can help inform discussions about appropriate restoration of fire-excluded forests in the interior Northwest. Where the goal is to restore historical fire regimes at landscape scales, managers may want to consider the influence of topoedaphic and vegetation patch types that could affect fire spread and ignition frequency.

Let's fix the fire problem: Here's a solution

What will you learn?

Fire is the first of three Great Constants in our lives. Change is the second. A web of change, consisting of population growth; density of homes built in outlying areas; new home construction; weather drying and heating; biomass build-up from fire suppression, management, etc. is converging on our communities, landscapes, economies, and collective resources. That convergence is creating negative impact and loss at unprecedented rates. This webinar discusses solutions to the fire problem.


Daniel Leavell, PhD, Extension Agent with the Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Program at Oregon State University

Session Details: Tuesday, February 26 at 10:00 am US/Pacific || Duration: 1.0 hour

Who should participate?

Managers/Practitioners, Scientists/Researchers, Landowners, Decision Makers, Community Members, Public, Other


Register HERE.

Prepare your computer or mobile device in advance: WebEx instructions

Fire, CO2, and climate effects on modeled vegetation and carbon dynamics in western Oregon and Washington

Authored by T. Sheehan; Published 2019

To develop effective long-term strategies, natural resource managers need to account for the projected effects of climate change as well as the uncertainty inherent in those projec- tions. Vegetation models are one important source of projected climate effects. We explore results and associated uncertainties from the MC2 Dynamic Global Vegetation Model for the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascade crest. We compare model results for vegetation cover and carbon dynamics over the period 1895–2100 assuming: 1) unlimited wildfire igni- tions versus stochastic ignitions, 2) no fire, and 3) a moderate CO2 fertilization effect versus no CO2 fertilization effect. Carbon stocks decline in all scenarios, except without fire and with a moderate CO2 fertilization effect. The greatest carbon stock loss, approximately 23% of historical levels, occurs with unlimited ignitions and no CO2 fertilization effect. With sto- chastic ignitions and a CO2 fertilization effect, carbon stocks are more stable than with unlimited ignitions. For all scenarios, the dominant vegetation type shifts from pure conifer to mixed forest, indicating that vegetation cover change is driven solely by climate and that significant mortality and vegetation shifts are likely through the 21st century regardless of fire regime changes.

Northwest Scientific Association

Northwest Scientific Association 90thAnnual Meeting

“Continuing the scientific legacy of the Corps of Discovery:A confluence of the Northwest’s past, present, and future”

For more information, https://www.northwestscience.org/page-1057155



Evidence for scale‐dependent topographic controls on wildfire spread

Authored by N.A. Povak; Published 2018

Wildfire ecosystems are thought to be self‐regulated through pattern–process interactions between ignition frequency and location, and patterns of burned and recovering vegetation. Yet, recent increases in the frequency of large wildfires call into question the application of self‐organization theory to landscape resilience. Topography represents a stable bottom‐up template upon which fire interacts as both a physical and an ecological process. However, it is unclear how topographic control changes geographically and across spatial scales. We analyzed fire perimeter and topography data from 16 Bailey ecoregions across the State of California to identify spatial correspondence between ecoregional fire event and topographic patch size distributions. We found both sets of distributions followed a power‐law form and were statistically similar across several orders of magnitude, for most ecoregions. As a direct test of topographic controls on fire event perimeters, we used a paired t‐test across ~11,000 fires to identify differences in topographic attributes at fire boundaries versus fire interiors. Statistical significance was determined using 500 iterations of a neutral landscape model. Level of topographic control varied significantly by ecoregion and across topographic features. For example, north–south aspect breaks, valley bottoms, and roads showed a consistently high degree of spatial control on wildfire perimeters. Topographic controls were most pronounced in mountainous ecoregions and were least influential in arid regions. Ridgetops provided a low‐level control across all ecoregions. Spatial control was strongest for small (100–102 ha) to medium (103–104 ha) fire sizes, suggesting that controls were scale‐dependent rather than scale‐invariant. Roads were the dominant control across all ecoregions; however, removing roads from the analyses had no significant effect on the overall role of topography on wildfire extinguishment in this analysis. This result suggested that certain topographic settings show strong spatial control on fire growth, despite the presence of roads. Our results support the observation that both bottom‐up and top‐down factors constrain fire sizes and that there are likely scaling regions within fire size distributions wherein the dominance of these spatial controls varies. Human influences on fire spread may either diminish or enhance the role of some bottom‐up and top‐down factors, adding further complexity.