RxCADRE: Prescribed Fire Combustion-Atmospheric Dynamics Research Experiments
21st Century wildfires are increasing in frequency, intensity and complexity. These trends seem likely to continue in the face of climate change, shifting land use patterns, and an increasingly urbanized landscape. Application of prescribed fires, a best management practice in many forest types, could help reduce the looming wildfire threat but is becoming more and more challenging. Fire science must rise to these challenges in a timely manner, but there is a need for greater collaboration and the pooling of talent and resources. This need led to the establishment of RxCADRE: the Prescribed Fire Combustion and Atmospheric Dynamics Research Experiment. The acronym reflects the collaborative nature of the experiment, which was born in 2008 as an exercise to combine the talents of fire experts with a wide range of fire monitoring expertise and equipment from across the US and Canada gathered in order to instrument prescribed burns at Eglin Air Force Base and the Jones Center. Participants came from SRS, NRS, PNWRS, RMRS, University of Idaho, San Jose State University, Georgia Tech, Harvard University, Florida State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, USFWS, The Nature Conservancy, and the Georgia Department of Forestry. four Research Stations, the Department of Defense, three Universities and the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in a series of prescribed fires with unprecedented measurement intensity. A subsequent RxCADRE in the spring of 2011 led to a formalization of the group and submission of a Joint Fire Science Proposal. O'Brien, a founding member of the team continues to be an integral component RxCADRE and is one of six discipline leads, and is in charge of coordinating fire radiative power and fire effects measurements.
O'Brien deepened the relationship between several members of RxCADRE (RMRS, Eglin AFB, and J.W. Jones Ecological Research Center) and SRS as lead PI of a successfully funded JFSP proposal. This funding was integral to the success of the RxCADRE that occurred in spring 2011. The work of both the currently funded JFSP proposal and RxCADRE II has led to the provisional funding of a large JFSP grant that will enable a series of RxCADRE's over the next four years.
The synergy between O'Brien and his RxCADRE collaborators has led to several important advances in fire science. O'Brien recognized the importance of spatially explicit fire behavior measurements in both explaining fire effects and capturing fire behavior phenomena important for improving fire prediction models. This work has led to three peer reviewed publications with another in the pipeline. With collaborators from RMRS, he developed a novel system for in-fire IR measurements in large operational burns that lead to the development of a new understanding the relationship between the spatial scale of fuels and fire behavior. It also improved the fire behavior packages deployed by the Missoula Fire Lab. He also gathered the expertise of Bret Butler of RMRS, Matt Dickinson of NRS and Dr. Robert Kremens of the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop a system that will greatly improve comparisons among burns by providing a field deployable standardized fuel bed. Radiative energy flux measured in the standard fuel bed can be used to account meteorological and fuel moisture variation among experimental burns that can mask important experimental treatment effects.
O'Brien and his RxCADRE colleagues have pushed the field of fire science forward in several important ways. By combining an array of expertise to intensively measure large scale experimental burns, RxCADRE has created data sets that are being used by many of the top fire behavior, atmospheric and smoke dynamics modelers from across the country. Fire effects models are also being improved by the unprecedented detailed heat measurements taken in the experimental burns. For example, NRS scientists are planning to use some of O'Brien's data to improve tree stem heat transfer models and examine the impact of heat plumes rising through foliage on tree physiological damage. RxCADRE, though just beginning, has already proven fertile ground for establishing new collaborations among research stations, universities and other agencies and provided exciting new funding to deepen these collaborations.
Forest Service Partners