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Science Supporting the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

Large smoke plume over a valley filled with buildings and trees.
The Woolsey Fire seen from Topanga, California. Photo courtesy of Peter Buschmann.


Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A New Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” is a 10-year Forest Service strategy that dramatically increases the pace and scale of forest health treatments over the next decade by mobilizing a large, multijurisdictional coalition to support the work at the appropriate scale. From the inception of the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, science has been used as a guide and the Forest Service is committed to a science-based approach throughout implementation of this strategy. The Rocky Mountain Research Station is poised to provide foundational and applied science to support these efforts. Many past and ongoing research projects provide a foundation for the work that is to be done around prioritizing landscapes, social science to enable more robust engagement with communities, understanding fire risk, fuel treatment effectiveness, and more. This page provides examples of science RMRS is providing in direct support of this strategy. 

The Rocky Mountain Research Station provides relevant and timely science in support of the Wildfire Crisis Strategy.


Fireshed Registry

Front page of the Firesheds at a Glance document

Scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station created the Fireshed Registry to show where fuel treatments are needed to stop fire transmission from national forests to developed areas. The Fireshed Registry is a geospatial dashboard for land managers and decision makers to view and map a vast array of data related to wildfire transmission, past, present, and future management, and past and predicted wildfires. The Registry covers the full continental U.S and includes 192 million hectares of forest land. Fireshed delineations within the tool are not limited by administrative, jurisdictional, or other anthropogenic boundaries.  

The concept of firesheds is central to implementation of the Wildfire Crisis Strategy. Decision makers used the Fireshed Registry, paired with a scenario planning tool, to identify initial target areas with highest risk of community and building exposure to wildfire. The Scenario Planning Investment Platform is a modelling framework used to build and analyze management scenarios. The Fireshed Registry was built as a data warehouse for the scenario planning model and stores data for simulating specific investment scenarios.

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Potential Operational Delineations (PODs)

People gathered around a map on a table
PODs planning in action. USDA photo.

The Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) process is a framework for cross-boundary, collaborative, and integrative fire planning that can support place-based implementation of the Wildfire Crisis Strategy. PODs are based on best available science about fire operations and risks to communities, ecosystems, and responders. The PODs process is holistic. It brings together local managers and stakeholders to plan for future fires using a sophisticated science framework. The PODs process is more than drawing containers on a map— it is a cross-boundary, collaborative engagement that translates into operational strategies once fire is on the ground. 

The PODs framework allows for continuous development of new, risk-informed approaches to address emerging wildland fire management challenges. The Chief's Wildfire letter of intent 2022 emphasizes the need for fire managers to utilize pre-season engagement planning, and calls for incident management teams to use PODs to inform suppression strategies when they are available and to engage every effort to develop them real-time as part of strategic operations when they are not.

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Additional RMRS Science Supporting the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

Identifying and Mapping Wildfire Risk 

Engaging with and Understanding Communities

Fuel Treatment Strategies and Effectiveness 

Restoration – Tools and Management Strategies