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Wildfire Risk Management Science Team


How did the forest and community get to the point where they were willing to take on managing a fire of this size and duration for resource benefit and hazard reduction? Science has recognized for decades that many forested ecosystems of the American West are shifting away from historically fire-adapted conditions. Beginning in the 1970’s a small handful of managers recognized this issue and developed wildland fire use concepts.
The complexity and demands of wildland firefighting in the western U.S. have increased over recent decades due to factors including the expansion of the wildland-urban interface, lengthening fire seasons associated with climate change, and changes in vegetation due to past fire suppression and timber harvest.
Massive tree mortality has occurred rapidly in frequent-fire-adapted forests of the Sierra Nevada, California. This mortality is a product of acute drought compounded by the long-established removal of a key ecosystem process: frequent, low- to moderate-intensity fire. The recent tree mortality has many implications for the future of these forests and the ecological goods and services they provide to society.
This study introduces a large fire containment strategy that builds upon recent advances in spatial fire planning, notably the concept of potential wildland fire operation delineations (PODs). Multiple PODs can be clustered together to form a “box” that is referred as the “response POD” (or rPOD). Fire lines would be built along the boundary of an rPOD to contain a large fire.
The impacts of wildfires have increased in recent decades because of historical forest and fire management, a rapidly changing climate, and an increasingly populated wildland urban interface. This increasingly complex fire environment highlights the importance of developing robust tools to support risk-informed decision making.
Characterising the impacts of wildland fire and fire suppression is critical information for fire management decision-making. Here, we focus on decisions related to the rare larger and longer-duration fire events, where the scope and scale of decision-making can be far broader than initial response efforts, and where determining and demonstrating efficiency of strategies and actions can be particularly troublesome.
During active fire incidents, decisions regarding where and how to safely and effectively deploy resources to meet management objectives are often made under rapidly evolving conditions, with limited time to assess management strategies or for development of backup plans if initial efforts prove unsuccessful.
The ability to rapidly estimate wind speed beneath a forest canopy or near the ground surface in any vegetation is critical to practical wildland fire behavior models. The common metric of this wind speed is the "mid-flame" wind speed, UMF. However, the existing approach for estimating UMF has some significant shortcomings.
Before fire models can be understood, evaluated, and effectively applied to support decision making, model-based uncertainties must be analyzed. In this chapter, we identify and classify sources of uncertainty using an established analytical framework, and summarize results graphically in an uncertainty matrix.
Wildfires can increase the frequency and magnitude of catastrophic debris flows. Integrated, proactive naturalhazard assessment would therefore characterize landscapes based on the potential for the occurrence and interactions of wildfires and postwildfire debris flows.