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Fire Research

Recognizing the scale and complexity of wildland fires, which affects millions of acres each year, the Forest Service has a network of fire labs and research stations across the country. Forest Service fire scientists develop knowledge and tools that help reduce the negative impacts of fire while enhancing its beneficial effects for society and the environment. Forest Service experts work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which provides satellite imagery and other resources to assist the Forest Service in fighting fires and preventing future ones.

Learn more about Forest Service research and technology:

Research and Development: Wildland Fire and Fuel

For fire and fuels research, the five current emphasis areas are: Physical Fire Science, Ecological and Environmental Fire Science, Social Fire Science, Integrated Fire and Fuels Management Science, and Science Delivery.

Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory

The Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana, part of the Rocky Mountain Research Station, conducts research into the fundamentals of fire behavior, extensive modeling of fire behavior, studies of soil heating, determination of fire effects and ecosystem response to fire, estimation of fire danger, as well as measurements of smoke emissions, dispersion, and chemical content.

Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

The Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, located in the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle, Wash., specializes in combustion science and fire physics, fuel science and fire behavior modeling, effects of fire on air quality, effects of fire on forest ecosystems, and fire behavior and effects in the wildland-urban interface.

San Dimas Technology and Development Center

The San Dimas Technology and Development Center (SDTDC) serves emerging technological requirements of the Forest Service and its cooperators. SDTDC was created to standardize fire equipment and to solve fire equipment safety problems. One of the Center’s program areas is fire and aviation, and its innovative projects include building the only spark arrester qualification facility in the world, testing fire chemicals for qualification standards, and creating water handling fire equipment.

Fire Research at Northern Research Station

The Northern Research Station conducts research and develops/delivers new products to address both national and regional fire issues relevant to forest ecosystems in the Midwest and Northeast. The regional issues include relatively high rural human populations intermingling with forested systems; air-quality concerns related to the use of fire for fuels management; several ecosystems historically disturbed by fire now losing fire-dependent biodiversity after decades of fire exclusion; and some fire dependent ecosystems inhabited by citizens largely unfamiliar with fire risk and frequent disturbance.

Pacific Southwest Research Station

The Pacific Southwest Research Station represents Forest Service Research and Development in California, Hawaii, and the U.S. affiliated Pacific Islands. Researchers study diverse areas from the lowest, driest desert in the country to the highest elevations within the 48 contiguous States in addition to some of the wettest tropical forests. The California labs in Riverside, Redding and Davis along with the lab in Hilo, Hawaii, study topics such as wildfire monitoring and prediction, global fire impacts, forecasting fire weather, managing fire and fuels, fire effects and watershed response. Visit the station’s Fire Science website to learn about relevant research focusing on the importance of the ecological function of fire; the social, cultural and economic values pertaining to wildland fire management; and fire management tools for land managers.

Southern Research Station

Fire is a common management tool in the South, where 90% of forests are privately-owned, and fire-dependent species like longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, and white oak are cherished. At the Southern Research Station (SRS), we are working with and for the people who manage the land. Researchers show how fire affects forest productivity and regeneration. They explore how repeated, low-intensity fires can benefit birds, reptiles, and other wildlife. Researchers also bring models out of the lab and into the hands of prescribed fire managers. Researchers at SRS are advancing our understanding of smoke to help managers minimize emissions and protect human health.

Other Resources

The Forest Service works with NASA to deliver state-of-the-art technology, fire imagery, and tools to help firefighters battle, prevent and protect people from wildfire. NASA’s Fire and Smoke mission provides global fire maps, updated every 10 days, to illustrate the severity and spread of wildfires around the globe. NASA also shares videos to raise awareness of the benefits or harm caused by fire, information on air quality changes due to fires, and more.