A Pacific Northwest Research Station Research Initiative
What is the West-Side Fire Research Initiative?
The West-Side Fire Research Initiative was developed to produce information relevant to fire-related management on landscapes west of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington. Wildfires on the west side of the Cascades are becoming more frequent and more intense, with increasing risk to the extensive wildland-urban interface in the area. Scientists, fire managers, and other stakeholders are working to coproduce the science needed to keep people safe and the forests resilient.
The station launched the initiative with a workshop in September 2019. Drawing on their diverse expertise, participants identified critical information gaps and developed a management-relevant research agenda. Three priority areas were selected:
Key west-side management challenges
What will the initiative accomplish and how?
West-Side Fire Research Initiative will produce actionable science that addresses high-priority information needs and produces tools that help managers and responders plan for changing fire regimes on the west side of the Cascades. The research agenda, tools, and information are being created by blended teams with a variety of knowledge and on-the-ground expertise. These are rapid-response research projects intended for quick implementation. Coproducing research among stakeholders and partners not only creates relevant science, but also cultivates long-term relationships needed to address adaptation to wildfire risk into the future.
What inspired the West-Side Fire Research Initiative?
The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire blanketed major population areas in Oregon and southwest Washington with smoke and disrupted transportation in the Columbia River Gorge. Even after the flames were extinguished, much of Oregon’s most popular recreation corridor remained closed for months, and some recreation areas remain closed. This and other wildfire events on the west-side have been a wake-up call to communities in the area. Large-scale fires that historically occurred every 100 to 400 years are happening more frequently and in areas that are highly populated and jurisdictionally complex. The west-side climate has changed and will continue to become warmer and drier, leading to the need for early action and collaboration across a variety of groups.
The initial workshop
In September 2019, scientists, partners, and stakeholders from around the Pacific Northwest met to identify critical information gaps and coproduce a management-relevant research agenda.
Following the workshop, attendees received a survey that asked them to rank topics and suggest possible research questions. The responses revealed three topic areas that were highly important to all the respondents: historical and future fire in west-side forests, fuels management, and postfire management.
Research groups formed, developed a problem analysis, and received funds to conduct both field-based and modeling research. The projects are described below.
Past, current, and future role of fire in west-side forests
Strategic fuel management and treatment effectiveness
Teams are now developing project study plans. Virtual meetings will be held throughout the initiative to update stakeholders and allow for continued collaboration. The end result of this initiative will be improved information, applications, and decisions that directly affect wildfire risk and resiliency in western Oregon and Washington landscapes. Given increasing fire risk to urban areas and high-value public and private lands in the Northwest, this effort will have major implications for the health, safety, and economic well-being of these communities.
West-side fire stakeholder webinar May 19, 2020
Teams shared their research plans for three priority topics: 1) historical, contemporary, and future fire regimes; 2) fuel management; and 3) postfire management. They also let stakeholders know how they can get involved.
Related Research Highlight: