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Wildfire Risk Management Science Team

Science spotlights

This large Douglas-fir died in 2012 and is surrounded by many smaller Douglas-fir, white fir, and Southwestern white pine that recruited during fire exclusion.  Stand density in mesic mixed conifer forests increased on average 1725% during fire exclusion.
The onset of fire exclusion in western North American forests in the late 1800s began one of the largest unintended landscape ecology experiments in human history. The current ecology of these forests and the ecological impacts of returning fire to these forests is strongly influenced by the amount of forest change that has occurred during the fire-free period. Understanding how different forest types responded to fire exclusion is important for...
Forest plot data is matched to gridded landscape data from LANDFIRE using the random forests method. The output consists of a grid of the IDs for the best-matching plot for each pixel.
https://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/53114Maps of the number, size, and species of trees in forests across the western United States are desirable for a number of applications including estimating terrestrial carbon resources, tree mortality following wildfires, and for forest inventory. However, detailed mapping of trees for large areas is not feasible with current technologies. We used a statistical method called random forests for matching...
Top-view of the flame zone of a spreading fire in the laboratory showing pocket structures resulting from buoyant-flow instabilities.
The phrase “spreads like wildfire” is well-known but until recent discoveries through experiments it wasn’t well-known how wildfires actually spread. Attempts to develop physical models have conceded a diversity of proposed formulations, rather than a foundational theory, because the exact physics of wildfire spread has not yet been discovered. New research by Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists and their collaborators clearly revealed...
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a simulation system designed to estimate wildfire risk for Fire Planning Units (FPUs) across the conterminous United States. This research demonstrates a practical approach to using fire simulations at very broad scales for operational planning and ecological research. Findings are being used in national wildfire decision support applications such as the Forest Service and Department of...
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists affiliated with the National Fire Decision Support Center worked closely with the Agency's Western and Eastern Threat Centers to develop novel methods to assess wildfire risk to communities, watersheds, and wildlife habitat, and to developed, natural, and cultural resources. 
A project led by Rocky Mountain Research Station scientist Karen Short provides one-stop access to mappable information about 22 years of U.S. wildfires from federal, state, and local fire reporting systems.
The role of large airtankers (LATs) in fire suppression in the United States has been the source of debate and discussion in recent years. Using drop location data from 2010-2012 for the conterminous U.S., we linked retardant drops to fire occurrence and resource ordering records to identify whether LATs were used during initial attack, and if so, whether or not the fire was contained at the initial attack phase.