USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics Fire Science

A crown fireFire is complex. It can both threaten and enhance life, property, and valued resources.

Many forest ecosystems depend on it.

Fire is an inseparable part of most mixed-conifer forest ecosystems in the western United States. It once was the principle disturbance that shaped the structure, function, and composition of forests. Today, fire continues to influence some forests, but lack of fire and past forest management practices have changed the characteristics of many forests. Forests are increasingly vulnerable to large and severe fires that threaten ecosystems and human communities.

Land managers are faced with the challenge of actively addressing these vulnerable conditions to prevent loss of life and property in future fires while also enabling low to moderate intensity fire to do its ecological work including maintaining wildlife habitat and watersheds that provide drinking water to millions of Americans.

Fire scientists at PSW are investigating three principal topics:
  • Restoration and maintenance of functioning fire-adapted ecosystems
  • Social, cultural, and economic components of human communities
  • Tools and tactics for fire management and control measures

This website provides brief summaries of comprehensive research and key findings to inform effective forest fire management. The information is based on research in the Sierra Nevada, Southern Cascades, and Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregions, but can be applied to most dry, mixed-conifer forests throughout the western United States.

Explore the links to the right to learn more.