You are here

Fire, Fuel and Smoke

Science Spotlights

A firefighter crew hiking out from a wildland fire burning in a pinyon-juniper woodland along the Utah-Nevada border. Photo by Dan Jimenez, U.S. Forest Service.
Escape routes are essential components of wildland firefighter safety, providing pre-defined pathways to a safety zone. Among the many factors that affect travel rates along an escape route, landscape conditions such as slope, low-lying vegetation density, and ground surface roughness are particularly influential, and can be measured using airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data.
A Clark’s nutcracker harvesting seed from whitebark pine cones. Photo courtesy of Diana Tomback
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forests are declining across most of their range in North America because of the combined effects of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) outbreaks, fire exclusion policies, and the exotic pathogen Cronartium ribicola, which infects five-needle white pines and causes the disease white pine blister rust. Predicted changes in climate may exacerbate whitebark pine decline by (1) accelerating succession to...
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...
One year after the 2011 Miller Creek fire in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. Photo by Sean Parks
In recent decades, many landscapes across the western United States have experienced substantial fire activity. These fires consume fuels and alter vegetation structure, which may be able to serve as a natural fuel treatment in the same manner as mechanical treatments or prescribed fire. Knowing that fire occurrence, size, and severity are limited by recent wildfires should provide greater flexibility and confidence in managing fire incidents...
Proper management of naturally forested landscapes requires an understanding of the temporal and spatial patterns in which key disturbance processes are manifest and their effects on species composition and structure. Linked fire and forest histories constructed from tree-ring evidence provide valuable information about drivers of fire occurrence and about the variability and interactions of fire regimes and vegetation on heterogeneous...
Chita forest April 2015
Scientists examined daily black carbon emissions from fires over different land cover types in Northern Eurasia. Their results are critical in understanding the future impacts of climate change on the fire dynamics in Northern Eurasia and the contribution of black carbon to accelerated melting of Arctic ice.
Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. Each specimen is a unique record of the environmental conditions from which it came. This tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Jack Cohen (retired, RMRS Research Physical Scientist) approaches a home to conduct a post-fire assessment with Sonny LaSalle (retired, USFS), which survived extreme wildfire conditions in southwestern Montana, 2000. (Photo by: Karen Wattenmaker/NIFC)
When it comes to protecting your home from a wildland fire, the most effective action for a homeowner is to create a home ignition zone (HIZ). Research Physical Scientist (retired) Jack Cohen provides an overview on HIZs along with two videos that clearly demonstrate why HIZs work.
Simulated fire behavior during the green, red, and gray stages of a mountain pine beetle outbreak under various levels of tree mortality (20%, 58%, and 100% mortality) and low wind speeds.
This study explored the impact of beetle-induced mortality and wind speed on fire behavior during the pre-outbreak (“green stage”), immediately post-mortality when dead needles remain on trees (“red stage”), and when needles drop to the ground (“gray stage”) in southwestern ponderosa pine forests.
2007 Castle Rock Fire in Ketchum, ID (c) Kari Greer/NIFC
The length of the fire weather season is one of many factors that must be understood to ensure that wildfires are effectively managed to promote healthy ecosystems while minimizing negative socio-economic impacts. While fire weather seasons aren't getting consistently longer everywhere, unusually long fire weather seasons are becoming more frequent across many fire-prone regions, like parts of Australia, Alaska, and the Eurasian boreal forests...

Pages