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Fire, Fuel and Smoke

A picture of a pine tree core with visible tree rings, and resin ducts visible as small dots within the rings.

Fire Ecology - Want to measure pine tree resin ducts?

Resin ducts are formed in the wood of pine trees and are a measure of the level of tree defense from insects and pathogens. We developed methods and software code to allow researchers to more easily quantify resin ducts.
Two researchers in safety gear crouch next to a frame used to take photoload sequences in the field.

Creating local fuel loading estimates using the Photoload Sampling Technique

The photoload technique provides a quick and accurate means of estimating wildland fuel loading. This report describes a protocol to create a set of photoload sequences in the field with minimal effort to increase the accuracy of the photoload technique in your local area.
A reddish plume of smoke from a wildfire above hills and agricultural fields.

Smoke Emissions - State of the science on wildland fire emissions

We evaluated current scientific literature, datasets, and models to assess the state of the science on wildland fire emissions. The assessment evaluates current knowledge regarding the composition, intensity, and drivers of emissions and discusses the crucial gaps in our understanding of emissions.
A map of the Deschutes National Forest, with the wildland-urban interface marked in red and various treatment areas marked in shades of blue.

Fire Management Systems – New forest landscape model predicts how management policies affect future wildfire impacts

We integrated the widely used Forest Vegetation Simulator with FSim, a large wildfire simulator, to study how management policies affect future wildfire regimes.

The Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program (FFS) conducts national and international cutting-edge work in wildland fire research. Primarily located at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, Montana, the Program’s scientists, technicians, and support staff continue a 60+ year legacy of proactively conducting the research we need tomorrow and into the future. By improving fundamental understanding of wildland fire and developing tools and applications, FFS research increases the safety and effectiveness of fire, fuel, and smoke management and helps increase the health of our wildlands.

Specific research activities are focused on four focal areas:

Fire Behavior – Understanding the physics of how wildfires spread and the dynamics of energy release and fire propagation from combustion in wildland fuels across a wide range of spatial scales.  Fire behavior is the foundation for models and knowledge used by managers in prediction, planning, and training.

Fire and Ecosystems – Increasing the understanding and knowledge of fire effects and ecology in fire-dependent ecosystems, which is essential to the development of fuel-related products, treatment alternatives, restoration strategies, and accurate forecasting of future conditions.

Smoke Emissions – Smoke management concerns are among the top impediments to prescribed burning, and wildland fires are major sources of greenhouse gases and carbonaceous particles. Understanding wildland fire emissions and their response to climate variability and changing landscapes is crucial to assessing future air pollution and potential climate feedbacks.

Fire Management Systems - Decision support systems improve the effectiveness and efficiency of fire and forest management activities and increase the safety of planning and operations. With advances in information technology, data, and modeling, long-standing challenges can now reasonably be addressed, including the analysis of tradeoffs within fire management investments and between fire and the variety of land management activities (including fuel treatment and prescribed fire), as well as estimation of risk to highly valued resources. FFS has a long history of producing and supporting systems for management use and continues to engage in technology transfer in the form of system development.

FFS also hosts four “sub-programs” that support scientists, fire managers, and Forest Service Leadership, and provides management of the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest:

The Fire Modeling Institute (FMI) – FMI is a center of expertise that supports fire and fuels management planning, resource management, and science implementation locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. 

Wildland Fire Management RD&A (WFM) – WFM was created to promote application of wildland fire scientific knowledge; develop decision support tools; and provide science application services to the interagency wildland fire community. The WFM RD&A serves as a primary point of contact for communication between scientists and participating field fire managers, as a liaison between research, wildland fire planning and operations, interagency wildland fire IT groups, and as an advisor to program administrators at local, regional, and national levels.

Integrated Organizational Learning RD&A (IOL) – IOL is comprised of three functional areas:

  1. Coordinated Response Protocol (CRP) and Learning Review (LR) Functional Area oversees the Agency’s response to incidents and accidents.
  2. Organizational Learning Functional Area acts as a catalyst for increased organizational learning capacity—not only within the fire community, but across all facets of the Forest Service.
  3. Research and Science Application Functional Area cultivates the scientific foundation for leadership in high performance, resilience and learning, emerging social and behavioral science, and practices such as leadership training, employee support, and organizational learning programs.

The National Fire Decision Support Center (NFDSC) – NFDSC builds upon previous science achievements that promote and facilitate 1) improving and implementing new fire behavior prediction tools, 2) strengthening the science of fire management planning, response, performance, and accountability, 3) advancing the science, development, and dissemination of quantitative wildland fire risk analysis methods.

Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest (TCEF) – TCEF was established in 1961 and encompasses the headwaters of Tenderfoot Creek in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. TCEF is the site of diverse research on the productivity and biodiversity of east-side lodgepole pine communities, forest monitoring and health, hydrologic processes, and much more.

Visit the external FFS Program website >>