You are here

Faith Ann Heinsch

Physical Scientist

5775 Highway 10 West
Missoula, MT 59808-9361
Contact Faith Ann Heinsch

Current Research

My work at the Fire Lab focuses on fire behavior and fire danger rating. I manage and provide support for the BehavePlus fire modeling system and provide training for use of BehavePlus for modeling wildfire and prescribed fire. I also provide technical transfer and outreach support for scientists at the Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program. Finally, I am able to work in climate change research, education, and outreach.

Research Interests

My primary research interests include the BehavePlus fire modeling system, including technical transfer of software documentation, developing a computerized fire characteristics chart for both fire behavior and fire danger, Fire Behavior, and Fire Danger Rating, particularly as it relates to recent climate change.

Past Research

Past research has included validation of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) vegetation productivity algorithms (e.g., Gross Primary Production); using the Biome-BGC ecosystem modeling software to estimate carbon balance in a number of ecosystems; and a summary publication outlining the features of the BehavePlus fire modeling system.

Why This Research is Important

My research is important because BehavePlus is used throughout the wildland fire community for estimating fire behavior. It is important that the software provides consistent answers for managers and that managers understand the proper interpretation of results. Recent changes in climate may have resulted in increases in fire danger across the western U.S., and I am interested in determining what impact, if any, a changing climate has on calculations of fire danger in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Great Basin.


  • University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, AL, B.S., Geography/German
  • Oregon State University,Corvallis, OR, M.S., Atmospheric Sciences
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, Ph.D., Soil Science
  • Publications

    Heinsch, Faith Ann; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Smith, Helen Y.; Retzlaff, Molly L., 2018. Characterizing fire behavior from laboratory burns of multi-aged, mixed-conifer masticated fuels in the western United States
    Sikkink, Pamela G.; Jain, Terrie B.; Reardon, James; Heinsch, Faith Ann; Keane II, Robert E.; Butler, Bret W.; Baggett, L. Scott., 2017. Effect of particle aging on chemical characteristics, smoldering, and fire behavior in mixed-conifer masticated fuel
    Heinsch, Faith Ann; Andrews, Patricia L.; Tirmenstein, Deb, 2017. How to generate and interpret fire characteristics charts for the U.S. fire danger rating system
    Heinsch, Faith Ann; McHugh, Charles W.; Hardy, Colin C., 2016. Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program 2015 Research Accomplishments
    Heinsch, Faith Ann; Innes, Robin J.; Hardy, Colin C.; Lee, Kristine M., 2015. Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Program: 2014 Research Accomplishments
    Innes, Robin J.; Heinsch, Faith Ann; Lee, Kristine M., 2014. 2013 Annual Report: Fire Modeling Institute
    Dobrinkova, Nina; Hollingsworth, LaWen T.; Heinsch, Faith Ann; Dillon, Gregory K.; Dobrinkov, Georgi, 2014. Bulgarian fuel models developed for implementation in FARSITE simulations for test cases in Zlatograd area
    Heinsch, Faith Ann; Innes, Robin J.; Hardy, Colin C.; Lee, Kristine M., 2014. Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program: 2013 Research accomplishments
    Riley, Karin; Abatzoglou, John T.; Grenfell, Isaac C.; Klene, Anna E.; Heinsch, Faith Ann, 2013. The relationship of large fire occurrence with drought and fire danger indices in the western USA, 1984-2008: The role of temporal scale
    Zhao, Maosheng; Running, Steven; Heinsch, Faith Ann; Nemani, Ramakrishna, 2011. MODIS-derived terrestrial primary production [chapter 28]
    Heinsch, Faith Ann; McHugh, Charles W., 2010. Climate change and fire danger rating in the Northern Rockies
    Figure 1 urban_interface_mulching
    Recently, several large fires have burned through masticated sites – including in Colorado (Brewer et al. 2013), Washington, and New Mexico. Burning under extreme weather conditions with strong winds, these fires have challenged the benefits of using mastication, even though mastication can provide many positive environmental effects, such as soil moisture retention and cool, moist environments for soil microbes. However, informing managers when, where, and how mastication is applied is based on antidotal evidence. To address, this issue we synthesized information to provide managers with a current state of knowledge on mastication.
    For the past three years, scientists from the RMRS Fire Sciences Lab in Missoula and the Forestry Sciences Lab in Moscow have been researching mastication as a fuel treatment in the Rocky Mountains. Specifically, they have been interested in how the materials age when they are left on the ground to decompose and how that aging affects their flammability.
    Fuel mastication is becoming the preferred method of fuel treatment in areas where using prescribed fire is an issue. While much is known about mastication effects soils, fire behavior and vegetative response, little is known about how fuel particle and fuel bed characteristics and properties change over time.

    National Strategic Program Areas: 
    Wildland Fire and Fuels
    National Priority Research Areas: 
    Climate Change
    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Fire, Fuel and Smoke