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:
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.