Fire Science News for the Lake States Region - September 2017

In This Issue

Consortium Staff
Jack McGowan-Stinski
Program Manager

Administrative Committee
The Ohio State University
Eric Toman, PI
David Hix, Co-PI
Michigan State University
Jessica Miesel, Co-PI 
Wayne State University
Dan Kashian, Co-PI 
Greg Corace, Co-PI
USFS Northern Research
Brian Palik, Co-PI
Randy Kolka, Co-PI

University of Idaho
Charles Goebel, Co-PI

Advisory Committee

Jim Barnier, WDNR
Marty Casselius, BIA
Paul Charland, USFWS
BJ Glesener, MN DNR
Steve Goldman, USFS
Matt Graeve, TNC
Vacant, OMNR
Andy Henriksen, NRCS
Michele Richards MI NG
Glenn Palmgren, MI DNR
Scott Weyenberg, NPS

September 2017:
Volume 8, Issue 9

Lake States Fire Science Webinar October 2017

Wildlife implications across snag treatment types in jack pine stands of Upper Michigan.
October 19, 2017 at 2 PM Eastern/ 1 PM Central

Shelby Weiss
School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University
Standing dead trees, or snags, are unique features of ecosystems representing post-disturbance biological legacies. As such, the abundance, volume, size and distribution of snags can affect wildlife communities and stand-level biological diversity. While the importance of snags is widely recognized, factors influencing the use of snags by wildlife are less understood. Characteristics such as the wood properties of different tree species, local environmental conditions, and the proximate cause of tree death (insects, disease, senescence, wind, fire, etc.) can influence decomposition and subsequent use by wildlife. Building on previous research in eastern Upper Michigan, the objectives of this study were to characterize decay patterns in jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) snags that had been killed by girdling, prescribed fire, or topping, and determine the effects of these treatments on subsequent utilization of the snags by subcortical insects and woodpeckers (Picidae). The prescribed burn, topping, and girdling treatments were implemented in 2003, 2004, and 2007, respectively; woodpecker excavations were quantified in 2014 and insect activity was measured in 2016. Principal component analysis was used to examine the relationships between snag and decay characteristics, and past insect activity. An information theoretic approach to model selection was then used to rank potential predictors of woodpecker foraging activity and cavities. Snags created by topping had decay characteristics unique from the other two treatments and had the highest levels of past insect colonization. However, trees killed by prescribed burning had the greatest number of cavities and woodpecker foraging excavations. Girdled snags had the lowest evidence of past insect colonization. Comparison of candidate models found that treatment type was the most influential variable predicting foraging by woodpeckers, while a combination of past foraging activity and snag diameter were the most influential variables predicting presence of cavities. These findings inform options for generating snags when managing for biological legacies and wildlife habitat within jack pine forests of the Great Lakes region.

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Two New LSFSC Research Briefs on Fire and Mercury

1) Connecting fire and the mercury cycle.

Written by: Randy Kolka & Emma Witt
(USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station)
• A portion of the mercury released to the atmosphere may be re-deposited locally resulting in an increased mercury load for catchments near fire impacted areas.
• Fires that consume the forest litter layer and impact the upper mineral soil horizons release previously stored mercury.
• Fire-associated loss of the litter layer and the mercury stored in the litter layer and upper soil horizon may decrease the mercury available for transport to lakes and available for uptake by fish.
• The cumulative impact of multiple disturbances on the mercury cycle is an important consideration when thinking of using fire as a management tool. Combinations of disturbances that may result in increased fire severity increases the potential for mercury losses.
2) Wildland fire does not affect mercury levels in fish.

Written by: Tracy Hmielowski
(American Society of Agronomy * Crop Science Society of America * Soil Science Society of America)

• To prevent mercury from bioaccumulating in fish, use low to moderate intensity prescribed fire to decrease fuel loads.
• Low to moderate intensity prescribed fire leaves behind considerable forest floor which limits mercury in runoff from entering lakes.
• Other management techniques that limit or slow runoff following fire will lessen the amount mercury from entering lakes.

Firewise Landscaping in Northeastern Minnesota

Partners in Minnesota have collaborated to develop a new resource to assist property owners with Firewise Landscaping.  The guide offers information for protecting your home or business from wildfire threats using wildfire-resistance landscaping and plants that are specific to northeastern Minnesota.
The information is available in a full-length, 9 page brochure or a 2-page condensed version.

Firewise in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota  

Article by Faith Berry, Associate Project Manager, NFPA Wildfire Division

The state of Minnesota, though rich in water, also has risk of loss due to wildfires. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has helped to support the growth of Firewise communities in the state. 

I was fortunate to talk with Todd Armbruster, the Cook County Firewise Coordinator for the last 3 years. Todd works closely with Jeff Jackson, the Minnesota DNR Firewise Specialist for northeastern Minnesota. Todd shared a little bit about how well this community of 5,000 works with many other agency partners to reduce their risk of loss due to wildfire in Minnesota's boreal forest ecosystem. They recognize the threat from wildfire, especially after they experienced the loss of over 100 structures during the 2007 Ham Lake Fire that burnt 75,000 acres in their community. They also realize that it takes everyone working together to create safer communities.

Community Wildfire Resilience Workshop Gets Rave Reviews — Key Ingredients

Written by Gloria Erickson

Learn why the “Living with Fire” workshop in Ely, MN was such a success (workshop sponsored by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Firewise Program). The workshop was a full day event: the morning consisted of presentations given by multiple agency experts in their respective fields, and the afternoon included field tours that supported and portrayed the concepts presented in the morning. The key ingredients that went into creating this event began with gathering a great planning team, determining the audience we wished to reach and identifying the messages we wanted to convey. We then incorporated these messages into a thrilling event.

Master Woodland Owners Discuss Wildfire Risk in Minnesota  

Minnesota DNR Wildfire Prevention Specialist Jeff Jackson demonstrates Firewise principles to private landowners.
(U.S. Forest Service photo)

Written by Teresa Gallagher, District Ranger, Superior National Forest
Fire-prone forests were the focus of a field trip for private landowners during a Master Woodland Owners workshop near Virginia, MN, on August 12. Landowners and resource professionals from agencies that offer assistance programs discussed Firewise principles; identified fuels; and discussed fire behavior and the effects of unwanted wildfire as well as how wildfire affects the risk to firefighters, homeowners, neighbors, property, and adjacent lands.Two participants were from local volunteer fire departments.

Attendees were interested in managing their woodlands for forest health and wildlife habitat, and were there to learn what can be done on their land to reduce fire risk. Woodland owners toured properties adjacent to Superior National Forest land that was to receive fuel reduction treatments and talked about the benefits of removing dead or dying trees and thinning live trees to help reduce fire risk.

The field trip was part of the Master Woodland Owners Program, sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension. This program delivers a comprehensive training curriculum for private woodland owners interested in becoming better stewards of their woods.

A Century of Wildland Fire Research:

Although ecosystems, humans, and fire have coexisted for millennia, changes in geology, ecology, hydrology, and climate as well as sociocultural, regulatory, and economic factors have converged to make wildland fire management exceptionally challenging for U.S. federal, state, and local authorities. Given the mounting, unsustainable costs and difficulty translating existing wildland fire science into policy, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine organized a 1-day workshop to focus on how a century of wildland fire research can contribute to improving wildland fire management. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.

The History and Future of Fire in the United States

Northern research station scientists developed site-specific fire histories and continental models of fire occurrence that land managers can use to enhance ecological restoration throughout the nation.

Site-specific fire histories define many attributes of a fire regime such as frequency, seasonality, and severity, and reveal how fire varied over time in relation to changing climate, and human populations and cultures. Understanding the changing role of fire helps explain the major shifts in the dominance and distribution of natural communities. Scientists at the Northern Research Station and collaborators recently reconstructed the history of fire in portions of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. This research adds to their work in the Great Plains, Midwest and Southern United States, and Canada.

Fire histories are used to develop prescriptions for restoration of natural communities such as savannas and woodlands. Collectively, over 170 fire histories from across the United States have been used to develop a continental model that predicts fire frequency based on climatic variables. The model was first used to predict historic (pre-European) fire frequency but has since been used to assess the probability of fire in the future under a range of climate scenarios. These assessments can be used to develop state and regional plans to reduce risk to catastrophic wildfires, to restore natural communities and their biodiversity, and to allocate limited resources to priority areas.
Daniel C. Dey, Project Leader / Research Forester

Go HERE for the these Publications
  • Predicting fire frequency with chemistry and climate
  • Future fire probability modeling with climate change data and physical chemistry
  • Restoring oak forest, woodlands and savannahs using modern silvicultural analogs to historic cultural fire regimes

Scanning the Future of Wildfire: Resilience Ahead…Whether We Like It or Not?

JFSP Fire Science Digest Issue 22:
The field of so-called “futures research” provides researchers and stakeholders in a given
subject area or system a way to map out and plan for alternate possible scenarios of the future. A recent research project supported by the Joint Fire Science Program brought together futures researchers and wildfire specialists to envision what the future holds for wildfire impacts and how the wildfire community may respond to the complex suite of emerging challenges.

The consensus of the project’s foresight panel suggests that an era of resilience is ahead:
but that this resilience may come either with a very high cost (after some kind of collapse),
in a more systematic way (that is, if the wildfire community plans for, and fosters, resilience), or something in between. In any projected future scenario, the panel suggests
that the end of the fire suppression paradigm is imminent and that a new paradigm—
one that fosters natural resilience of the system, along with natural wildfire—is arising.

A central question emerges from this work: How will the wildfire community respond to this tipping point?


This notice provides an update to investigators who are interested in potential research opportunities from JFSP.

Investigators should be aware that the final decision regarding FY18 topic selection has been delayed and will not be made until fall 2017.  One or more topics that have been described in the July 2017 Notice of Intent (NOI) may be dropped or included in the final notice, and the specific focus of individual topics may be altered. Investigators should recognize this uncertainty and not invest substantial time or resources working on proposals until the FONs and their associated topics are formally posted.

Investigators should not contact the JFSP Office or Governing Board members seeking further information on these topics. No further information will be released until the FONs are formally posted.

Those formal FON postings will be available on and investigators can subscribe to our weekly Friday Flash eNews where announcements will be made later this fall.

Three JFSP Friday Flashes: 

1) Do Fuel Treatments Restore Ecosystem Function?

The recent increase the extent and severity of fires in dry western pine forests is an enormous concern for fire and resource managers and has led to a shift in forest management towards fuel treatment to reduce the potential for high severity fire. Treatments alter surface and canopy fuel characteristics to reduce potential fire intensity. Both modeling and observational studies demonstrate the effectiveness of fuel treatments in reducing fire intensity and tree mortality in forest stands and across forest landscapes. There is now a need to focus on the ecological outcomes of fuel treatments and evaluate their effectiveness in achieving restoration of ecosystem structure and function.
2) Long-term impacts of wildfire on fuel loads

In a recent JFSP-funded synthesis of the effects of fire in the Great Basin, Miller et al. (2013) stated that largest gaps in our understanding of sagebrush dominated ecosystems were:
1) A lack of long-term fire studies (>10 years) and 
2) A lack of studies that evaluated the effects of repeated burns. 

JFSP Project # 14-1-02-5 by Ellsworth and Kauffman directly addressed both of these gaps by providing a deeper understanding of long-term fuel load accumulation and vegetation composition following fire in sagebrush ecosystems.
3) Forests, People, Fire: Integrating the Sciences to Build Capacity for an “All Lands” Approach to Forest Restoration

Interest in landscape-scale approaches to fire management and forest restoration is growing with the realization that these approaches are critical to maintaining healthy forests and protecting nearby communities. However, coordinated planning and action across multiple ownerships have been elusive because of differing goals and forest management styles among landowners. Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Research Station and their colleagues recognized that working at the landscape scale requires integrating the biophysical, social, and economic dimensions of the problem, and this necessitates collecting new types of information and inventing new tools. 

Key Findings
•    Current forest management approaches differ widely within the central Oregon study area, leading to different outcomes in terms of fire risk reduction, timber harvest, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat.
•    Current levels of restoration on federal lands slightly reduced the future occurrence of high-severity fire compared to no management, according to model projections. This indicates that significantly more landscape needs to be treated to really affect future fire behavior.
•    Contrary to some expectations, national forests in the study area are currently more resilient to high-severity fire compared to other large forest ownerships in the study area.
•    The level of forest restoration on the landscape changes the amounts of annual timber harvest, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat.

How to generate and interpret fire characteristics charts for the U.S. fire danger rating system

Abstract: The fire characteristics chart is a graphical method of presenting U.S. National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) indexes and components as well as primary surface or crown fire behavior characteristics. Computer software has been developed to produce fire characteristics charts for both fire danger and fire behavior in a format suitable for inclusion in reports and presentations. Scales, colors, labels, and legends can be modified as needed. The fire characteristics chart for fire behavior has been described previously (Andrews et al. 2011). This report describes the fire characteristics chart for fire danger, which displays the relationships among the Spread Component, Energy Release Component, and Burning Index by plotting the three values as a single point. Indices calculated by using FireFamilyPlus can be imported into the fire danger characteristics chart software. Example applications of this software for comparing fire seasons, weather stations, and fire danger rating fuel models are presented.
Citation: Heinsch, Faith Ann; Andrews, Patricia L.; Tirmenstein, Deb. 2017. How to generate and interpret fire characteristics charts for the U.S. fire danger rating system. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-363. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 58 p.

The ABC’s of Fire Terminology

Read the recent Blog on wildland fire terminology: A quick refresher on commonly used terms using definitions from the National Park Service/ USDA Forest Service wildfire terminology glossary

The Science of Fighting Wildfires Gets a Satellite Boost


Wildfire Mitigation Awards - now open for nominations - due October 31, 2017

The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation. The program was established in 2014 in response to an overwhelming number of great wildfire mitigation program efforts happening throughout the United States.

This recognition program is jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS).

Click here to link to the Wildfire Mitigation Awards. This will provide the criteria and the nomination form. The nomination period closes on October 31, 2017.

Fire Leadership for Women – Training Modules at PFTC

Goal of Modules: 
Encourage leadership on the fireline (from entry level to upper management) using prescribed fire as a catalyst to bring women together to become strong and assertive leaders; to challenge themselves; enhance strengths and improve upon weaknesses; creating a support network, enhancing longevity and success for women in wildland fire management.
Modules scheduled for February and March 2018
Application Deadline is October 20th

Call for Workshop Session or Presentation Proposals for the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop

The International Association of Wildland Fire in partnership with the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) and the Western, Southeast and Northeast Regions of the Cohesive Strategy, invites you to submit a proposal for a workshop session or presentation at the 2nd Annual National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop to be held March 26-29, 2018 in Reno, Nevada.

We Need Your Ideas:
Help us design a workshop that brings Cohesive Strategy practitioners and decision makers together to learn from one another. Propose a workshop session or presentation that helps participants explore key issues.

Workshop Intent and Background:
Our goal is to build capacity, improve preparedness and learn from each other about how to make the Cohesive Strategy work. We want this workshop to give practitioners and decision makers tools and ideas that support what’s working and help identify opportunities for improvement. To that end, we’re designing this event as an interactive workshop. We welcome session or presentation proposals that will lead to active learning and participation. Proposals for sessions that help create new knowledge, support skill building and draw out people’s experiences are preferred.
Please see FLYER for many more details

Fire Trainings

Jan. 12-14 and Jan. 19-21, 2018
Grand Valley State University
Held at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Hastings, MI
Offering fire courses in the next year?
Please send information to Jack McGowan-Stinski so we can post in future newsletters for you.

Conferences and Workshops in the Region

2018 Stewardship Network Conference
Science, Practice & Art of Restoring Native Ecosystems Conference
January 12-13, 2018 at East Lansing, MI at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center

Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference
January 28-31, 2018
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
4th Annual Burning Issues Workshop 2018 and Michigan Prescribed Fire Council Annual Meeting - a LSFSC Event

February 6-7, 2018 at Fort Custer Training Center, Augusta, MI

Midwest/Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Meeting
April 20-22, 2018
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference
October 15-18, 2018
Rochester, Minnesota

Conferences and Workshops in the U.S. 

Natural Areas Conference
October 10-12, 2017
Fort Collins, CO.

2017 Conference on Fire Prediction Across Scales
October 23-25, 2017
Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, New York

Oak Symposium: Sustaining Oak Forests in the 21st Century through Science-based Management
October 24-26, 2017 
Knoxville, TN

Future of Fire Workshop
November 6-7, 2017
Chautauqua National Historic Landmark
Boulder, Colorado

SAF National Convention. The Future of Forestry: Meeting Diverse Needs in a Changing World
November 15-19, 2017
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Call for presentations now open!

7th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress 
FireVision 20/20: A 20-Year Reflection and Look into the Future
Held concurrently with the 2nd Applied Fire Science Workshop
Hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology in cooperation with the Southern Fire Exchange
November 28 - December 2, 2017
Orlando, FL

Igniting Exchange: Bridging the Gap between Science and Management 
January 30 - February 1, 2018
Portland, ME

Wildland Urban Interface Conference
February 27 - March 1, 2018
Peppermill Resort
Reno, NV

2nd Annual National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop
Making a Difference: Building Capacity, Improving Preparedness, and Learning From Experience
"Lessons for the Field"
March 26-29, 2018
Peppermill Resort Spa Casino
Reno, NV

The Fire Continuum Conference: Preparing for the Future of Wildland Fire 
May 21-24, 2018 
Missoula, MT

Want to submit an article, post an event or training, or contribute a success story?

Does your agency, organization, or community have a wildland fire science project, event, training, or story you would like to see featured in the Lake States Fire Science Consortium Newsletter? 
Please send submissions to Jack McGowan-Stinski.
Copyright © 2017 Lake States Fire Science Consortium, All rights reserved.
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