Forest ThreatNet

Volume 12, Issue 1 - Winter 2018

Western Threat Center Highlight: Project to Assess Performance of Wildland Fire Behavior Models

A prescribed fire in a western U.S. pine forestBetter prediction of wildland fire behavior could improve firefighter safety and effective allocation of resources at the right time and in the right places, but multi-scale, independent tests of model prediction are needed. To achieve this, a consortium of scientists from the three western Forest Service Research Stations, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), University of Montana, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as federal, state, and TNC fire crews measured fuels, weather, and fire behavior from prescribed burns conducted in October 2017 in western U.S. dry pine forests. They will also collect these measurements from additional burns in October 2018.

The project is unique in many ways, including innovative fuel mapping approaches, the multi-scale nature of the data collected, and the applicability of the data to model evaluation at different scales. Scientists are pioneering several aspects of this work. Collectively, the project offers a suite of opportunities for real advancement in fire science, including 1) development and testing of multi-scale fuel mapping approaches that integrate field data, LiDAR, airborne imagery, and modeling to produce 3D fuel maps at landscape scales; 2) multi-scale radiant energy measurements that link fixed-wing drone-based measures with several field-based measures; 3) development and testing of approaches for capturing wind fields and other environmental conditions over space and time; and 4) development and testing of approaches for evaluating models across scales and different levels of detail. Perhaps just as importantly, however, is the breadth and depth of partnerships that arose and continue to grow in this project. The Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center and TNC co-funded the project, and agency scientists from EPA and NOAA donated their time and travel to conduct the research.

For more information, visit the Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center website.

Pictured: A prescribed burn in a western U.S. dry pine forest. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

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