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Fire, Fuel and Smoke

Science Spotlights

High-severity wildfire.
Land managers often need the total number of acres burned broken down by these severity classes for planning after wildfire. To meet this need, Forest Service scientists and their cooperators developed the Fire Severity (FIRESEV) Mapping project, a comprehensive set of tools and procedures that create, evaluate, and deliver fire severity maps for all phases of fire management.
Plume of the Big Salmon Lake Fire on August 17, 2011.
Wildland fires are a significant source of air pollutants. Researchers found that wildfires in the Interior Mountain West burn with a much lower combustion efficiency than prescribed fires. This finding means that for a given mass of vegetation burned, wildfires emit more fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and more non-methane organic compounds (NMOC) that lead to ozone (O3) formation.
Lubrecht Experimental Forest was a study site for this project.
Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station investigated a number of fuel characteristics across major surface and canopy fuel components that comprise northern Rocky Mountain forest and range fuelbeds. They found that most fuel components have high variability that increases with fuel particle size.
USDA Forest Service and University scientists and managers synthesized 100 years of published forestry science to help forest managers better understand the ecology of “frequent-fire” forests. Returning frequent-fire forests to their historical species composition and structure will increase their resilience to fire, insects, disease, and climate change.
Firefighters exiting area where safety zone sensors were deployed on a fire in Nevada in 2014 (photo by Dan Jimenez).
Data over the past 30 years suggest that firefighter injury and deaths can be attributed almost uniformly to aircraft accidents, driving accidents, heart attacks, and fire entrapments. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station have worked to develop new information on safety zones and escape routes that can help keep firefighters safe. This work has resulted in a new understanding of how energy is released from fires and...
Wildland Fuel Fundamentals and Applications is a new book providing critical infomation about wildland fuels.
A new era in wildland fuel sciences is now evolving in that fire scientists and managers need a comprehensive understanding of fuels ecology and science to realistically evaluate fire effects and behavior in the diverse ecosystems and landscapes of the world. Wildland Fuel Fundamentals and Applications is a new book that may provide fire managers and scientists the information needed to understand how fuels are used in fire behavior and effects...
The costs of fighting wildfires have dramatically increased in the past decade, as have the size and severity of wildfires. Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists and collaborators at the University of Idaho undertook a literature review and case study analysis to answer the question: Can fuel treatments mitigate wildfire effects?
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. 
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...
Riparian habitat along the Rio Grande, New Mexico
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a coupled approach that combines species distribution models, predictions for future fire regime, and climate change vulnerability assessments to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.