Fire Science News for the Lake States Region - April 2015

April 2015: Volume 6, Issue 4

10th Anniversary
Cottonville Fire


Ten years ago, on May 5, 2005, the Cottonville Fire occurred in central Adams County, WI.  The 3400 acre blaze would become the most destructive forest fire in Wisconsin in 25 years.  It also quickly became clear that Cottonville was going to be one of the most intensively photo-documented wildland fires in Wisconsin history.  There were over 550 photos and two hours of video taken of the fire-in-progress, and an even greater number of photos taken to document effects on lands, vegetation, and structures in the fire’s path.  Cottonville was also the first major Wisconsin fire where detailed individual assessments were done to try and identify the specific factors that resulted in loss, damage or saving of each of the over 100 structures in the fire’s footprint.

As part of the after-action review of the fire, the photographs, video records and other data associated with the fire was archived and a detailed analysis was completed of the fire’s progress through its nearly 12-hour run.  ArcView was used to build a project that could interactively present much of this fire history and analytical data, with hot-links to photographs, FireWise analysis results, etc.  The intent was that the ArcView project could be shared and used as a tool for presentation and study of the fire, but this proved difficult as its use was limited to those who had full ArcView licenses. Only a few people were able to make use of the ArcView tool.

In February, 2012,
John Hintz, the Wisconsin Rapids Area Forestry Staff Specialist with the WI DNR who had created the ArcView project, was approached by Professor Doug Miskowiak, GIS Education Specialist in the Department of Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  Dr. Miskowiak had learned of the Cottonville Fire and was interested in integrating information about the WI DNR’s use of GIS in mapping the fire into his curriculum.  After a demonstration and review of the project, Dr. Miskowiak asked if the WI DNR would have an interest in placing the information on the University’s web server as an interactive ArcServer page where it could be widely accessed by people to learn about and study the fire.  With the approval from the WI DNR Division Forestry program, Dr. Miskowiak and his students began the process of converting the ArcView project to a Web-based ArcServer project.

“Geographic Documentation of the Cottonville Fire” ArcServer page is completed and activated on the UW-Stevens Point website.  The title page gives three web addresses where the fire can be interactively studied from the perspective of fire progression; fire effects on vegetation and landscape; and photographic, FireWise, and forest management documentation.  The web project is still a work-in-progress as ideas are being considered to possibly add other data to the site, including information on landscape and development changes in the area that have come about as a result of the fire.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Cottonville Fire, it is hoped that this resource can be used as a tool to present information about this historical event, its’ effects, and in particular the lessons our partners and the public.

If fire history and fire effects are of interest to you, check out the ArcServer page and direct any feedback and ideas on how to improve the site to John Hintz. 


Missed a Fire Science Webinar in the 2014-2015 LSFSC Series?

Below is a list of the webinars and some fast facts

You can view the recordings in YouTube, Adobe Connect, or just access the PDF of each presentation


3-Part Webinar Series:

Part 1LANDFIRE 101Focus on Lake States and Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna FSC’s

Randy Swaty, Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy

  • This was a Primer on how to use LANDFIRE to get more information on:
    • Reference condition models and descriptions
    • Vegetation, disturbance processes, fire regime and fuels spatial data
    • The Refresh process and updates
    • Tutorials, documentation, adaptation
Part 2Assessing NeedsWhere Should We Burn? A Fire Needs Assessment for Wisconsin
Tracy Hmielowski, Fire Information Specialist, Tallgrass and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium
  • Using LANDFIRE in combination with other spatial data and ecological communities to develop a “Fire Needs Assessment” for State of Wisconsin
  • Focus on fire-dependent communities
  • Came up with an estimate of prescribed fire needs for landscapes across WI
  • Cost/benefit analysis used to identify priority areas modified for using indices such as rarity, benefit, effort and challenge
Part 3Customizing Data Local Customization of LANDFIRE Fuels Data on the Huron and Hiawatha National Forests
Don Helmbrecht, Wildland Fire Analyst, USDA Forest Service, TEAMS Enterprise Unit
  • Off-the-shelf LANDFIRE data is intended to support broad sub-regional-to-regional scale strategic planning efforts but may be 3-5 years out of date at the time of application.
  • Using local knowledge and expertise to update LANDFIRE data for applicability at finer scales with examples from work on the Huron-Manistee and Hiawatha National Forests in Michigan.
    • Common considerations
    • Five-step conceptual framework for data critique and modification process
    • Available resources & support  
Maple Ridge Prescribed Burn – Stand Replacement Crown Fire Used to Reduce Hazardous Fuels and Create Habitat for the Endangered Kirtland’s Warbler in the Mack Lake Basin 
Steve Goldman, District Ranger, Mio Ranger District, Huron-Manistee National Forests
  • History of the Project Area - Maple Ridge RX within the 1980 Mack Lake Fire Perimeter
  • Strategic placement and expansion of firebreaks in jack pine country
  • The 2012 Little Mack Lake Wildfire that helped set the stage
  • Consideration of politics and human factors
  • The CE Decision of 2013: prescribed burn, fuelbreaks, Kirtland’s Warbler habitat, and Maximum Managed Area
  • Risk comparison between management- ignited fire and wildfire
  • Cost/benefit comparison between mechanical harvest and planting of jack pine versus fire
  • How the high intensity crown prescribed fire was ignited and controlled, fire behavior and the fire effects
Long-term Structural and Compositional Development of Fire-origin Red Pine Forests in North Central Minnesota
Anthony D'Amato, University of Minnesota
  • Capitalized on historic plots in north-central MN to characterize red pine development
  • Natural patterns of mortality for red pine are spatially random; demographic transition from mixed jack pine community and fire historically left patchy conditions
  • Background mortality rates are generally higher in old-growth stands with important structural outcomes; deadwood levels far exceeded extended rotation or unmanaged second-growth
  • Extended rotation harvest systems with long-term thinning provide opportunity to accelerate development of old-growth structure (reduced pathways by 60 years)
  • Extended rotations in red pine consistent with productivity goals
  • Historic spatial patterns and lack of recruitment and coarse woody debris argue for use of variable density thinning regimes if objectives include accelerating late-successional structure in managed stands
Two 2014 LSFSC Intern Projects:
Project One:
Restoring Barrens and Northern Dry Forests in Northeastern Wisconsin

Brian R. Sturtevant, Deahn DonnerWright, Christel Kern - USDA Forest Service, and Claire Hillmeyer - University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
  • A look at the Northeast Sands Ecological Landscape:glacial landform and socio-ecological history
  • Development of the Lakewood Southeast (LKSE) Project – a Barrens Restoration Area Example
  • The 2014 Intern Project – study design, methods, and monitoring
Project Two:
Can Onset of the Spring Dip in Red and Jack Pine be Predicted?
Jonathan Steigerwaldt and Ron Masters - University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, John Hintz - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Matt Jolly - Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT
  • The spring dip is of great importance in the Lake States regions because it helps define the fire season
  • As the live fuel moisture decreases in red and jack pine, the radiant intensity of a burning tree increases, leading to a greater fire intensity and likelihood of crown fire
  • There is seasonal variation in live fuel moisture – comparisons from WI and MI
  • Goal of long-term study is to:
    • identify predictor(s) for the onset of the spring dip phenomenon
    • develop a method for fire managers to know when to allocate wildland fire resources and when to exercise caution while conducting Rx burning  
Phragmites and Prescribed Fire: Seasonal Prescriptions and Risk - 2-part Webinar
Lee Osterland, Fire Management Specialist, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Time of year to burn – prescriptions for winter, spring, summer, fall
  • Burning considerations for wet versus dry sites, and controlled versus non-controlled water level
  • Altering fuel arrangements
  • Fuel and weather dynamics affect how readily Phragmites will burn (RH, stem moisture, etc.)
  • Specialized equipment
  • Meeting prescribed burn objectives  
Canadian REDapp Fire Behavior Calculator: A New Tool for Alaska & Great Lakes Fire Management Agencies?
Neal McLoughlin, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, REDapp Development
  • REDapp is a universal fire behavior calculator
  • Provides basic fire behavior projections with minimal training.
  • Managers introduced to REDapp at a fall workshop in Fairbanks felt the tool could be used by field operatives, dispatchers, managers, and other agency cooperators to link numerical outputs of the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS) with potential fire behavior and spread.  
Long-term Effects of Repeated Prescribed Burning on Tree Growth and Drought Vulnerability in Pinus resinosa Forests in Northern Minnesota
Alessandra Bottero, NE CSC Postdoctoral Fellow & Research Associate, University of Minnesota
  • Red Pine Prescribed Burning Experiment, MN - Long-term (40 years post-treatment) effects of prescribed burning treatments on tree growth and vulnerability of growth to drought.
  • Repeated prescribed burning reduced growth in the years immediately following burning, but impacts did not persist after burning treatments were discontinued.
  • Growth reduction was more pronounced in the stands burned annually than periodically, but significant only for a few years after burning.
  • Resistance and resilience to drought were reduced in both burning treatments in the short-term, but not necessarily in the long-term
  • The use of prescribed burning as a forest management tool needs to be consciously implemented, especially considering predictions of increasing drought frequency, duration and intensity for many fire-prone forest systems
  • For drier ecosystems, the application of alternative fuel treatments may be an option for achieving fuel reduction goals without affecting tree vigor, or increasing tree growth vulnerability to drought over the short-term  
Fire Monitoring: Fuels, Vegetation, and Fire Behavior Examples from Landscape Red Pine and Jack Pine Burns
Brian Stearns, Huron Shores Ranger District, Huron-Manistee National Forests
  • The Brittle and Memorable Projects (Huron-Manistee National Forests, MI) are a landscape-level reintroduction of fire to a red pine and jack pine dominated ecosystem
  • The goals of the projects: improve firefighter and public safety, reduce fuel loading, and restore fire-adapted ecosystems
  • Monitoring measurements: fuel loading, duff/litter, fire severity, surface fire behavior potential, photo series, mortality/snag creation, crown scorch, bole char/char depth, crown bulk density, soils/carbon content, vegetation mapping, fire behavior, smoke, needle density
Easy-To-Use Smoke Tools
Trent Wickman, Air Resource Management, USDA Forest Service - Superior National Forest
  • Smoke Planning
    • State Smoke Management Plan or basic smoke management practices
    • What is a Nonattainment Area?
    • How to figure out how polluted the air is now
    • How to predict where your smoke will go (or where it went) and how thick it will be
    • How to estimate how bad the smoke was
  • How to use specific tools covering smoke from the planning phase of a project to day-of-the-burn projections: Smoke screen, Vsmoke, Bluesky playground, Digital photoseries, Airnow tech

SAVE-the-DATE for a Special LSFSC and LANDFIRE Webinar - Biophysical Setting (BpS) Review


LANDFIRE and LSFSC will be hosting a webinar on June 4, 2015 at 1 PM EST/ 12 PM CST on what BpS review means for the Lake States.
LANDFIRE developed state-and-transition models to represent pre-settlement reference conditions for all Ecological Systems in the United States through an expert-based model development process. Each model represents a single ecosystem called a Biophysical Setting (BpS) consisting of a quantitative state-and-transition model and a description document.

A long-sought-after review of LANDFIRE Biophysical Setting Reference Condition models will commence soon, with the goal of updating and streamlining the products. To learn more about the existing model set, check out the LANDFIRE Program site.

Ongoing Research: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment - Chippewa National Forest

Forest managers must account for the potential effects of a changing climate when developing and implementing management plans.  However, it is difficult to predict how climate will affect the long-term outcome of management actions because climate has effects on many interacting processes that operate at landscape scales, including major disturbances such as fire, windstorms, insect outbreaks and timber harvest activities.

LANDIS-II forest landscape disturbance and succession model is being used to assist the managers of the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota to conduct a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for a very large landscape that includes a large area of land surrounding the National Forest.  LANDIS-II will simulate all the major processes that structure forest landscapes, including tree seed dispersal and establishment, growth and competition, forest management activities by other land owners, natural disturbances and climate change.  Part of the project is the development of a web-based Visualization Tool that allows managers to directly access model output maps and tables without the assistance of scientists, allowing them to conduct analyses and answer questions on a routine basis for decision support now and in the years to come.

Chippewa NF managers will have access to LANDIS-II projections of future forest landscape dynamics under a number of different climate change scenarios and four generic management options: 1) business as usual, 2) emphasize ecosystem services, 3) emphasize ecosystem goods and 4) caretaker (minimal stewardship activities). This will help the mangers better understand the effectiveness of potential management strategies and provide useful information to help them make decisions and formulate plans.
Read more HERE

Recent Research: Predicting Fire Frequency with Chemistry and Climate

Guyette, Richard P.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Dey, Daniel C.; Muzika, Rose-Marie. 2012. Predicting fire frequency with chemistry and climate. Ecosystems. 15: 322-335.
A predictive equation for estimating fire frequency was developed from theories and data in physical chemistry, ecosystem ecology, and climatology.  This equation is referred to as the Physical Chemistry Fire Frequency Model (PC2FM).

Management Implications:
  • For areas where fire history is unavailable, the PC2FM model can provide estimates of mean fire intervals using local temperature and precipitation.
  • Managers can use this map to understand the amount of influence temperature and precipitation variables have on mean fire intervals in their region, in comparison to other influences such as topography and land use.
From Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Northeast Region April 2015 Newsletter

National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day: May 2, 2015

To help communities prepare for and reduce their risk of wildfire damage, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), with generous funding and support provided by State Farm®, has launched the Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire campaign aimed at residents and fire departments in an effort to keep wildfire safety at the top of the list for people living in the nation’s highest risk areas. The year-long campaign highlights and provides actionable, engaging information and specific activities and projects under three major themes:  Plan, Act, and Embrace

May to August, the theme of Act will kick off with Wildfire Community Preparedness Day  (May 2) as the focus. Participants are encouraged to act on this day or in other planned Firewise events throughout the season, to practice their evacuation plans, and to apply for Firewise recognition. This phase of the campaign will place special emphasis on helping firefighters be safer in fighting wildland fires.  

Protecting Great Lakes Forests with the State Fire Assistance Program 

With support from the USDA Forest Service’s State Fire Assistance program, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is achieving goals outlined in the State’s Forest Action Plan.
Every few years, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact, identifies a common fire problem and creates a multi-year fire prevention campaign. The latest campaign has addressed ember awareness. The state was faced with a problem that debris burning fires were caused by individuals who had obtained a proper permit, but the responsible party failed to extinguish their fire before leaving. Overnight, embers rekindled, escaped and caused a wildfire on the following day.
As a result, five state and provincial agencies in the Great Lakes region (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario and Manitoba) launched an ember awareness campaign focused on educating the public about fire prevention. TV advertisements, restaurant placemats, flyers, display banners, newspaper ads, and a three minute video were created to be distributed during peak fire season this year.
In FY2015, the effort focuses on the protection from embers in the event a wildfire occurs, and target seasonal homeowners located in fire prone areas. The goal is to encourage the public to take necessary steps to improve their seasonal homes' chances of survival, without firefighter intervention.
The 2016-2017 fire prevention effort will focus on fire weather awareness. 

Read more HERE


Regional Fire Training's

The following fire training opportunities have been brought to our attention. If you are offering fire courses in the next year please send information to Jack McGowan-Stinski so we can post in future newsletters for you.

2015 Minnesota Wildfire Academy
June 1-5, 2015 at Itasca Community College
Sponsored by Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) partners and Advanced Minnesota Fire Training

Course Schedule and Tuition


Fire Training's in Michigan from Grand Valley State University
at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Hastings, MI

S-130, S-190, L-180
August 10 – 14, 2015 
January 8-10 and 15-17, 2016

Conferences in the U.S.

Managing Fire, Understanding Ourselves: Human Dimensions in Safety and Wildland Fire
13th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit and 4th Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire
April 20-24, 2015 in Boise, ID

9th Annual Wildland Fire Litigation Conference
May 1-3, 2015 in Monterey, CA
Fire in Eastern Oak Forests Conference
May 27-29, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Special Session on Fire in Wetlands at the 2015 Society of Wetland Scientists meeting
May 31-June 4, 2015 in Providence, RI

NASA ARSET “Remote Sensing for Wildfire Applications” workshop
October 6-8, at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho
Call for Poster Abstracts

2015 Wildland Fire Education Conference: Backyards and Beyond
October 22-24, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, SC

6th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress
Advancing Ecology in Fire Management: Knowledge Transfer through Workshops, Presentations, and Meetings
November 16-20, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas

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 © 2015 Lake States Fire Science Consortium, All rights reserved.
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