FASMEE planned operational burn. Photo credit USDA Forest Service.
The Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE) is a large-scale interagency effort to identify how fuels, fire behavior, fire energy, and meteorology interact to determine the dynamics of smoke plumes, the long-range transport of smoke, and local fire effects such as soil heating and vegetative response.
A plot with heaving logging debris one year after the forest harvest in Matlock, Washington. USDA Forest Service photo by Dave Peter.
Fire Effects Monitor Dustin Smith taking field weather observations. National Interagency Fire Center photo by Kari Greer.
Predicting the weather is notoriously complicated, which can be a challenge for fire managers. Weather plays a major role in how a wildfire behaves and whether it might become erratic or endanger firefighters. For thirty years, fire weather forecasters used the “Haines Index” to assess how weather might intensify wildfire and drive its spread.
A prescribed fire spreading through a mixture of post oak and blackjack oak in north Mississippi (Chickasaw County). Photo by Morgan Varner.
Throughout their range, oak trees have long represented a close relationship between forest and fire. Fire exclusion throws this relationship off balance, and over time open oak woodlands can undergo big changes in composition and structure, sometimes leading to forest plant communities that have never existed before.
Photo courtesy of the National Interagency Fire Center.
Few if any treatments can compete with prescribed fire for its combination of economy and effectiveness in maintaining healthy fire-adapted forests. Prescribed burns are planned meticulously to ensure that they are safe and effective.
High biodiversity oak woodlands like these in Humboldt County, California are imperiled by fire exclusion. Photo by Morgan Varner.
Oak woodlands are beautiful settings, and typically the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. But they depend on frequent, low-severity fire to maintain their characteristic open canopies. After a century of land use change and exclusion of frequent fire, California’s oak woodlands have been disappearing.
Distribution of forest disturbances in the Western United States. For visibility, plot size is enlarged, undisturbed plots are not shown, and only the first (primary) disturbance on a plot is shown. From 2011-2015 FIA plot data for first disturbance.
Research forester Tara Barrett studies how forests in the Western United States are changing over time, particularly with respect to climate and disturbance.
Morris Johnson, a scientist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, and colleagues used empirical data to quantify the effectiveness of recent fuel treatments, designed to benefit wildlife habitat, in mitigating wildland fire severity during the 2014 San Juan Fire. They measured fire severity near and within different fuel treatment units.
Fuel reduction treatments result in unique vegetation structures that do not conform to standard classifications.
Trees killed by sudden oak death near Big Sur, California.
U.S. Forest Service photo by Howard Kulijan
Sudden oak death, caused by the fungal pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, has killed many native oaks in California and southern Oregon. The long-term ecological consequences of the disease are not well understood. For example, forest managers are very interested in the interplay between fire and sudden oak death.