This workshop was planned to build on the accomplishments and recommendations of the USGS' first Wildland Fire Workshop held at the EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, July 9–10, 1997 (Coloff, Findley, and Helz, 1998), and the Second Wildland Fire Workshop held in Los Alamos, New Mexico, October 31–November 3, 2000 (Coffelt and Livingston, 2002). Activities within the USGS in the area of fire science have increased substantially since that first workshop, and this third workshop was an additional step toward enhancing the visibility and effectiveness of the USGS fire-science activities.
Manipulation of fuel prior to an incident to prevent the occurrence or slow the spread of wildland fire. Synonymous with Vegetation Management or Weed Abatement.
The objective of this Fire Response Plan is to define the organization, coordination, and procedures to be used by the USGS to effectively support the wildland fire community and fire managers in their request for immediate and longer term knowledge and expertise that the USGS can offer. Financial support of USGS efforts on behalf of the wildland fire community will come from existing Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) and future partnerships, such as the Memorandum of Understanding for Science in Support of Fire Management that is currently being developed among the Federal land-management agencies and the USGS. In addition, the plan provides a framework for the internal coordination of existing fire-science activities within the USGS and enhanced Congressionally funded fire-science opportunities.
Specific activities within the USGS fire-science program include immediate wildland fire-support activities such as GeoMAC (Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group), a Web-based capability to provide fire managers with wildland fire information needed during wildfire incidents. In addition, mapping capabilities within the USGS have been utilized to map fires immediately to provide a quick assessment of fire perimeters, burn severity, and wildland/urban interface zones. Further, USGS scientists have been called upon as resource advisors to provide biological, ecological, hydrological, and geological expertise locally, both during and following wildfires. Local knowledge and expertise provided by USGS scientists reflect understanding acquired through longer term scientific studies carried out by scientists. Having USGS resources available to fire-suppression staff has proved extremely useful since many suppression teams brought in are temporary and unfamiliar with local watersheds, ecosystems, and natural resources. For example, information provided by resource advisors and technical specialists has included information about hydrological conditions, geologic information, soils and soil erosion, fire effects on wildlife and plants, suppression effects on ecosystems, effects and locations of threatened and endangered species, and invasive species issues. Longer term support activities include the assessment of post-fire flooding and debris-flow hazards and effects on aquatic and terrestrial biota including threatened and endangered species. The USGS is providing research results on the recolonization of burned areas by exotic and invasive species and the effect on the flammability of a landscape. Also, USGS scientists are actively studying the interrelation between climate and wildfire and how to use this information to improve fire forecasts. This paper describes a draft Fire Response Plan for the USGS to provide technical resources in a timely manner for wildland fire support.
The USGS has extensive fire-science capabilities and currently supports fire-related activities within Federal, State, and local fire-management agencies. There are five interrelated and supportive components of the fire-science program within USGS: (1) risk identification—LandFire and links to traditional USGS hazard programs; (2) mitigation support for fire planning and fuels-treatment activities; (3) preparedness—aiding the land-management and emergency-response agencies in preparing response actions; (4) response—supporting suppression activities; and (5) post-fire assessments and mitigation. A key element to these activities is the scientific understanding of fire ecology and support for fire-management decisions and human effects research. The components of this program address not only the immediate support needs of the wildland fire community but also support longer term research needs regarding watershed effects including the ecological and social effects from wildland fires and restoration and rehabilitation activities.
FireCAMMS will solve problems in fire and smoke management by providing regional simulations of weather and weather-dependent phenomena including fire danger, fire behavior, and smoke distributions. Weather elements such as wind strength and direction, temperature, precipitation, and humidity as well as smoke, fire, and fire-weather indices (Ventilation, Haines, Fosberg, Ketch-Byrum, and so forth) will be simulated with resolutions of 12-km grid spacing (selected areas will nest 4-km grids within them) covering the continental United States. Although each FireCAMMS will maintain a regional focus providing local clients with priority products, all FireCAMMS will produce one or more daily simulations representing hourly changes in all these elements from current conditions to as many as 48 hours of simulated future conditions. FireCAMMS will deliver model simulations to users for application in fire-weather assessments, fire danger, fire behavior, and smoke management.
Historically, fire has been among the dominant disturbances in the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States. Recent occurrences of large wildfires, due in part to the increased abundance of fuels resulting from the past century of wildfire suppression, necessitate that resource managers acquire information on the post-fire state of the land surface to plan erosion hazard mitigation strategies and to guide revegetation efforts. This paper reports on the spectroscopic analysis of remotely sensed data collected post-wildfire. Two areas were studied: (1) the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the Left Hand Creek BLM area in central Wyoming, which has been subject to wildfires in 2000 and 2001. AVIRIS (Airborne Visible InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer) data collected on September 4, 2000, over the Cerro Grande fire site were atmospherically corrected and converted to reflectance by using a single ground calibration site. The spectral signatures in these data were examined in relation to known spectral responses of vegetation, mineral, and post-fire ash materials. The results of this study indicate that the presence of ash-covered surfaces and bare soil/bedrock surfaces can be identified and mapped. Variations in vegetation reflectance arising from chlorophyll and lignin/cellulose absorption features indicate that vegetation within fire perimeters can potentially be discriminated into unburned vegetation, fire-killed nonphotosynthetic needles/leaves, and regenerated vegetation. Hymap imaging spectrometer data over the Left Hand Creek study site were collected on July 2, 2002. In conjunction with the remote-sensing data collection, field measurements of vegetation reflectance and surveys of plant species composition were made for 33 sites within the study area. Measurements of vegetation cover and species composition were made in order to assess the impact of fire on vegetation regeneration in this sagebrush ecosystem. Ongoing efforts in both study areas seek to utilize the post-fire characterization of the land surface in conjunction with studies of erosion and vegetation regrowth to develop predictive models of landscape recovery from wildland and prescribed fires.
Fires initiated in wildland areas can spread to populated areas where structures can be ignited (UWI fires). The onset of burning structures introduces fire intensities and durations different from that produced by vegetation. Community fire spread and the risk of ignition for homes exposed to both burning vegetation and other structures are complex. As the geometry and types of fuels are dictated by landscaping instead of larger scale wildland fuel beds, fire models need to be constructed to account for the ignition and burning characteristics of individual fuel elements, such as trees, shrubs, decks, building siding, windows, and roofs.
Each year in the United States, millions of liters of chemicals are used to suppress wildland fires. Since 1995, the Columbia Science Center has been involved in the evaluation of the toxicity of fire-suppressant chemicals to fish and wildlife. In recent studies with long-term retardants, we found that the presence of YPS (sodium ferrocyanide) increases the toxicity of fire retardants. In laboratory and field tests, the toxicity of fire retardants containing YPS significantly increased in the presence of solar ultraviolet radiation and toxic concentrations of cyanide were observed. Fish are capable of avoiding streams containing fire-retardant chemicals. Fire-retardant residues in soil samples obtained from unburned sites in the vicinity of Lake George in the Hayman Reservoir watershed remained toxic for at least 90 days after application; therefore, toxicity of fire retardants may persist in rainwater runoff, particularly from sandy or rocky substrates. Persistence declines with increasing content of organic matter in the soil and cation-exchange capacity. Combustion eliminates the toxicity of the retardant. Other fire-related factors such as ash effluents and high temperatures may cause harmful effects that exceed the effects from chemical toxicity of fire-retardant chemicals. The environmental risk posed by the use of fire-retardant chemicals is event- and site-specific because risk is a function of the toxicity of the substance, the amount applied, persistence in the environment, area treated, and dilution/mixing ratios of the watershed.
—The Rocky Mountain Mapping Center (RMMC) has been providing the Federal land-management agencies with mapping support related to wildland fire-suppression efforts for several years. Initial efforts involved the development of an integrated geospatial data set for Incident Commands (ICs) and strategic fire-planning activities. Underpinning these efforts has been the need for GIS Incident Tactical Support primarily in the form of medium to large-scale maps and corresponding digital data. Unfortunately, a great deal of these maps in high risk fire areas, such as in the wildland/urban interface, do not depict a current representation of the local area. The initial goal is to provide the Incident and Coordination Centers with current information on transportation networks, structures, and subdivisions.