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RxCADRE: a collaborative interdisciplinary project in fire research

Posted date: February 23, 2016

Collaborative interdisciplinary fire research project learns from large-scale field experiments

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Feb. 23, 2016 – Scientists find that a lack of co-located, multi-scale measures of pre-fire fuels, active fire processes, and post-fire effects hinders their ability to tackle fundamental fire science questions. Conducting this level of interdisciplinary collaborative research would require large-scale field experiments and such an endeavor would pose several logistical challenges.

To overcome this obstacle, the 30-member multi-agency Core Fire Science Caucus initiated a four-year project, called the Prescribed Fire Combustion and Atmospheric Dynamics Research Experiment or “RxCADRE.” The experiment was made possible through in-kind support from participating research organizations and funding from the Joint Fire Science Program. 

Prescribed burn experiment at the Eglin Air Force Base, FL (2012) photo by Roger Ottmar, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Prescribed burn experiment at the Eglin Air Force Base, FL (2012) photo by Roger Ottmar, Pacific Northwest Research Station

As one of the larger collaborative fire research efforts in many years, 90 scientists from among the five U.S. Forest Service Research Stations, national and international universities and research organizations, NASA and the U.S. Air Force worked on the RxCADRE from 2008-2012. Together, they conducted large-scale interdisciplinary field experiments before, during and after active burning periods of prescribed fires. The goal was to develop synergies between fuel, atmospheric conditions, fire behavior, radiative energy, smoke generation, and fire effects measurements for fire model development and verification.

During 2013 and 2014, data were quality assured, reduced, and formatted for placement into the U.S. Forest Service Research Data Archive, which is accessible to all for purposes of evaluating and improving fire models and advancing knowledge in the area of wildland fire science. A lot of new knowledge resulted from the RxCADRE that is critical for understanding fine-scale fire behavior and fire effects, which in turn is needed to improve existing fire modelling.

Findings from this research are featured in the Jan. 2016 special issue International Journal of Wildland Fire, an issue totally dedicated to this project. The issue provides 10 scientific reports that cover every aspect of the project including fuels, meteorology, fire behavior and energy, smoke, fire behavior and fire effects, and the evaluation of remotely piloted aircraft for research. The reports involved not only rigorous science but also a high level of coordination and cross-referencing between papers that represents the implicit collaboration throughout the project.

As the RxCADRE project came to a close it became quite clear that more information is needed from additional complex burning conditions that represent a majority of the natural fuels and fires in North America and beyond. So a new generation of experiments will be conducted under a new project over the next five years called the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment or FASMEE.

As noted by David Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station and Colin Hardy of the Rocky Mountain Research Station, guest editors of the special issue, “The true test of RxCADRE and its successor, FASMEE, will be their influence on the future of fire science and next generation, process-based fire modelling.”

You can read more about the RxCADRE project on the Rocky Mountain Research Station website and the Pacific Northwest Research Station website.


Additional related publications

Development and validation of fuel height models for terrestrial lidar - RxCADRE 2012

Measuring radiant emissions from entire prescribed fires with ground, airborne and satellite sensors - RxCADRE 2012

Evaluation and use of remotely piloted aircraft systems for operations and research - RxCADRE 2012

Related Publications

Clements, Craig B. ; Lareau, Neil P. ; Seto, Daisuke ; Contezac, Jonathan ; Davis, Braniff ; Teske, Casey ; Zajkowski, Thomas J. ; Hudak, Andrew T. ; Bright, Benjamin C. ; Dickinson, Matthew B. ; Butler, Bret W. ; Jimenez, Daniel ; Hiers, J. Kevin. , 2016
Strand, Tara ; Gullett, Brian ; Urbanski, Shawn P. ; O’Neill, Susan ; Potter, Brian ; Aurell, Johanna ; Holder, Amara ; Larkin, Narasimhan ; Moore, Mark ; Rorig, Miriam , 2016
Hudak, Andrew T. ; Dickinson, Matthew B. ; Bright, Benjamin C. ; Kremens, Robert L. ; Loudermilk, E. Louise ; O'Brien, Joseph J. ; Hornsby, Benjamin S. ; Ottmar, Roger D. , 2016
Ottmar, Roger D. ; Hiers, J. Kevin ; Butler, Bret W. ; Clements, Craig B. ; Dickinson, Matthew B. ; Hudak, Andrew T. ; O'Brien, Joseph ; Potter, Brian E. ; Rowell, Eric M. ; Strand, Tara M. ; Zajkowski, Thomas J. , 2016
Butler, Bret W. ; Teske, C. ; Jimenez, Daniel M. ; O'Brien, Joseph ; Sopko, Paul A. ; Wold, Cyle E. ; Vosburgh, Mark G. ; Hornsby, Ben ; Loudermilk, E. Louise , 2016
Ottmar, Roger D. ; Hudak, Andrew T. ; Prichard, Susan J. ; Wright, Clinton S. ; Restaino, Joseph C. ; Kennedy, Maureen C. ; Vihnanek, Robert E. , 2016
Peterson, David L. ; Hardy, Colin C. , 2016

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. RMRS maintains 14 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. While anchored in the geography of the West our research is global in scale. To find out more about the RMRS go to You can also follow us on Twitter at




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National Strategic Program Areas: 
Wildland Fire and Fuels
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Fire, Fuel and Smoke
RMRS Strategic Priorities: 
Fire Sciences
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