May 2020 Newsletter

In This Issue

Additional Events and Resources (Right Column)

Wildfire Risk to Communities Website

For the first time, community wildfire risk has been mapped nationwide to help community leaders mitigate risk. On April 9th, 2020, the USDA Forest Service announced the free, interactive, easy-to-use website, Wildfire Risk to Communities. This website is designed to help community leaders understand how wildfire risk varies across a state, region, or county and allow them to prioritize actions to protect their communities.

Wildfire Risk to Communities provides data through interactive maps and charts showing risk to homes, exposure types, wildfire likelihood and vulnerable populations. Wildfire Risk to Communities also provides vital steps that elected officials, planners and wildfire managers can take to mitigate risk through home hardening, wildfire preparedness, fuel treatments and more.

Wildfire Risk to Communities is designed so that anyone can access the data. No technical or mapping skills are required, making the interactive website useful for a diverse set of users. Geospatial data and tabular data will also be available for download to allow for additional analysis. Wildfire Risk to Communities is best used for considering risk across a community rather than at the neighborhood or individual home scale.

More information can be found on this website

Montana Wildfire Risk Assessment Resources

Last month, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (MT DNRC) released the Montana Wildfire Risk Assessment (MWRA) - a statewide quantitative wildfire risk assessment framework. The MWRA will assist with planning and prioritizing work around the three goals of the Cohesive Strategy - Fire Adapted Communities, Resilient Landscapes and Effective Response to Wildfires. This information is shared as a resource for partners to assist with collaborative regional and local hazard mitigation plans, community wildfire protection plans as well as planning and prioritizing cross-boundary work throughout Montana and within Forestry Division Programs. The end-product is a comprehensive geospatial dataset which represents wildfire risk to communities in Montana. The methods in developing the MWRA were similar to methods used for the USFS Wildfire Risk to Communities (see previous article), but with data that is fine-tuned to the state of Montana.

The MT DNRC partnered with the NRFSN to share information about the MWRA in a recent webinar, which can be viewed here

Exposure Analysis Available in IFTDSS

LANDFIRE GeoAreasThe Interagency Fuel Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS) now includes wildfire exposure analysis. This can be used to assess wildfire hazard where highly valued resources and assets are located. Use this information for fuels treatment planning and prioritization, wildfire response and helping partners understand which values are important to you and why.

Visit for more information. Or, read and download the Exposure Analysis flyer.

NPS Wildland Fire Program News Links 

NPS Fire Program web page image

Find current and past news releases related to wildland fire in national parks at this National Park Service Branch of Wildland Fire website. In addition, the site provides numerous links where other information regarding current fires in the national parks and nearby lands can be found.

High Five Conference Management Scholarships

September 15-17, 2020 - Missoula, Montana 
photo of yellow glacier lilies under burned treesThe Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation (WPEF) is offering free registrations (value of $350) to local, regional and Canadian professionals and managers interested in attending H5II – The Second Conference on the Research and Management of High Elevation Five Needle Pines in Western North America. Management scholarships will be awarded to 3-10 land management professionals or scientists.  To apply, WPEF asks that you wait until June 5, 2020 and then email your name, affiliation, and a 1-3 sentence justification to The conference organizing committee will evaluate all submissions to select the best based on the justification and how well it fits with the conference content. 

JFSP Forecasted Funding Opportunity Announcement

The interagency Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) intends to request proposals through one or more formal Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) in July 2020. For more information and the full descriptions of potential topics, see this website. The potential topics include:
  • Relative impacts of prescribed and wildland fire
  • Types and distribution of ignitions and their relation to fire size and impacts
  • Science in support of fuel treatment performance metrics
  • Graduate Research Innovation (GRIN) Award

JFSP Announces 2020 GRIN Recipients

NRFSN would like to congratulate all of the Joint Fire Science Program 2020 Graduate Research Innovation (GRIN) award recipients!  Projects that are applicable to the Northern Rockies region include:

Less fuel for the fire: How will drought amplify effects of short interval fire?
Kristin H. Braziunas, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Refining Post-Fire Hazard Management Tools with Advanced Geomorphic Assessment
James Guilinger, University of California-Riverside

Prescribed Fire Effects on Soil Hydraulic Properties and Ecohydrological Function
Dylan S. Quinn, Washington State University-Pullman

New JFSP Program Manager Announced

The BLM Fire & Aviation Directorate recently announced Ed Brunson as the new program manager for the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP), effective immediately. Ed has been with the JFSP since 2015; he has experience as the JFSP Communications Director and Deputy Program Manager, and has served as the Acting Program Manager since January of this year. In these positions Ed worked extensively with the JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network. Prior to working directly for the program, Ed has worked as a Regional Fuels Specialist and Regional Fire Ecologist for Bureau of Indian Affairs in Portland and Nashville, respectively - during this time he served on the JFSP Governing Board.  

Outside of federal service, Ed's been a Fire Education Director and State Fire Manager for The Nature Conservancy, and a Coastal Resource Planner with Tillamook County, Oregon. Ed's wide-ranging experience in the fire community and his ability to manage effective partnerships will serve him well in his new role with JFSP.

--Adapted from May 6th BLM Fire & Aviation Directorate announcement

NRFSN Staffing Update

Linda Mutch has returned to full-time work with the National Park Service Sierra Nevada Inventory and Monitoring Network. The NRFSN thanks Linda for her dedicated, meticulous and thoughtful contributions. We will miss her!
A note from Linda:

I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the NRFSN the past 2+ years. The co-coordinator job combined my love of the Northern Rockies with my long-time interests in fire ecology and making scientific information more available to land managers. I especially loved working with the network staff, our planning team, and advisory board, as well as assisting with in-person workshops and field trips. As there is increased need for my time with National Park Service Inventory & Monitoring Program communication efforts, I am now returning to that role full-time, but I may appear again someday on a NRFSN field trip!                

Bob Keane Retires

Congratulations to Dr. RKeane examining old growth ponderosa pineobert (Bob) Keane on his retirement at the end of March!  Keane held a long and storied career as a research scientist with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Lab in Missoula.  He made countless contributions to the fields of fire ecology and fuels science, and was a frequent collaborator with the NRFSN among many other organizations.  Keane also led three decades of research in whitebark, ponderosa and lodgepole pine ecosystems of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.  A summary of this research can be found in a recent webinar.  Happy trails, Bob!       

Monica Turner Receives ESA Award

Congratulturnerations to Monica G. Turner, recipient of the 2020 Ecological Society of America Eminent Ecologist Award!  This award honors a senior ecologist for an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.  ESA summarized Turner's accomplishments in an April 16th press release:

"Turner’s work has fundamentally impacted a range of diverse fields including disturbance ecology, fire ecology, forest ecology, biogeochemical cycling, and land management...Her work following the 1988 national debate over extensive fires in Yellowstone was paradigm-changing, demonstrating that large-scale, infrequent, and climate-driven fires can be natural and rejuvenating occurrences in coniferous forests."

Turner has been gracious to share her expertise with NRFSN on several workshops and field trips over the years - check out these past event resources for information:

Dimensions of Resilience
Long-Duration Fire and Re-Burn Effects in Yellowstone National Park
Learning About Resilient Futures  

New Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center Manager

Kelly Woods, a Bureau of Land Management supervisory training specialist responsible for leading the Great Basin Training Center in Boise, Idaho, has been named as the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) manager.

“Kelly’s background, blending fire management operations, communication, training development, and training delivery will help her lead the LLC’s efforts to improve safe work performance and organizational learning for all wildland firefighters,” said National Park Service Wildland Fire Operations program leader, Chad Fisher.

The LLC manager position has been relocated to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho and Kelly will assume her new duties on May 24, 2020.
--Adapted from May 6th news release

Northern Rockies Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

Normal significant large fire potential is expected across the region during the outlook period May – August, except across northern Idaho and western Montana where above normal significant large fire potential is expected in July and August for some areas. 

Over the past 30 days, it was drier than average across much of the region. The driest areas were in northeast Montana and southwest North Dakota; in contrast the Bitterroot Divide received much higher than average moisture. Temperatures in April were much cooler than average east of the Continental Divide, but only slightly cooler than average west of the Continental Divide in north central Idaho and western Montana. This has held snowpack in place with little melting. Snowpack is currently in the 100% to 130% percent of normal range. Current monthly and seasonal drought outlooks keep the entire region drought-free through the end of July. 

The Climate Prediction Center outlooks for May predict a status quo pattern east of the Continental Divide with slightly cooler and wetter than average conditions. In the western areas however, a trend is evolving with probabilities of warmer and drier than average weather beginning in late May and continuing through the outlook period. This would continue to imply accelerated snowpack melting, faster lower elevation fine fuels curing, and dead fuel moisture drying progressing through the late spring and early summer. 
For more detail, check out this web briefing.

--Adapted from May 1st report by Predictive Services, National Interagency Fire Center.


May 14
WildfireSAFE: A tool to provide rapid, actionable intelligence to inform risk-based decision making for wildland fire operations

July 26-31
North American Congress for Conservation Biology
Denver, Colorado

September 15-17
H5II: Research and Management of High Elevation Five Needle Pines in Western North America
Missoula, Montana

October 13-16
Sierra To Sagebrush: Integrating Management and Stewardship Across Landscapes
Reno, NV

October 14-16
MFCN and MWCC Workshop and Symposium: Summit to Stream: Connecting People, Water and Forests
Butte, Montana

October 26-30
National Cohesive Strategy Workshop
Asheville, NC

Learn a New Way to Sample Wildland Fuels: the Photoload Technique

Boundary-Spanning for Collective Action: Managing Wildfire Risk in the West

Modeling and Optimizing Prescribed Fire for Managing Wildfire Risks

Building a prescribed fire program on the Colorado Front Range: The role of landowner engagement

IFTDSS Briefing 2020

A Career of Research in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex: 1988-2020

Biochar 2020

Montana Wildfire Risk Assessment 

Search the NRFSN Webinar and Video Archive 

Search NRFSN Hot Topics

Search the NRFSN Research & Publications Database

Fire Behavior-
Use of NWP models to identify convective outflows for fire weather forecasting - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program

Multi-Scale Study of Ember Production and Transport under Multiple Environmental and Fuel Conditions: Final Report for Joint Fire Sciences Program

Fire and Climate-
Changing wildfire, changing forests: the effects of climate change on fire regimes and vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, USA

Fire Communications & Education-
Seeing the Light, Feeling the Heat - An essay by Stephen Pyne

Fire and Wildlife-
Trends in carnivore and ungulate fire ecology research in North American conifer forests

Patterns of bird species occurrence in relation to anthropogenic and wildfire disturbance: management implications

Fire Economics- 
Cost-effective fuel treatment planning: a theoretical justification and case study

Fire Effects-
High-severity wildfire limits available floral pollen quality and bumble bee nutrition compared to mixed-severity burns
Integrating fire effects on vegetation carbon cycling within an ecohydrologic model

Post-fire aspen (Populus tremuloides) regeneration varies in response to winter precipitation across a regional climate gradient

Fire History-
Fire and land cover change in the Palouse Prairie–forest ecotone, Washington and Idaho, USA

Fire Regimes-
Biogeography of fire regimes in western U.S. conifer forests: A trait-based approach

Fire Severity-
Decomposing the Interactions between Fire Severity and Canopy Fuel Structure Using Multi-Temporal, Active, and Passive Remote Sensing Approaches

Earlier fall precipitation and low severity fire impacts on cheatgrass and sagebrush establishment

Fire and Wilderness-
Protected area stewardship in the Anthropocene: integrating science, law, and ethics to evaluate proposals for ecological restoration in wilderness

Ponderosa pine mortality in the Bob Marshall Wilderness after successive fires over 14 years

Firefighter Health and Safety-
Measuring acute pulmonary responses to occupational wildland fire smoke exposure using exhaled breath condensate

Human Dimensions of Fire Management-
Organizational learning from prescribed fire escapes: a review of developments over the last 10 years in the USA and Australia

Operational Effectiveness-
Fire Suppression Resource Scarcity: Current Metrics and Future Performance Indicators

Post-fire Recovery-
Post-fire regeneration of endangered limber pine (Pinus flexilis) at the northern extent of its range

Forest stand and site characteristics influence fuel consumption in repeat prescribed burns

Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) growth and defense in response to mountain pine beetle outbreaks

Risk Management-
Fostering collective action to reduce wildfire risk across property boundaries in the American West

The Path to Strategic Wildland Fire Management Planning

Wildfire risk science facilitates adaptation of fire-prone social-ecological systems to the new fire reality

Weather, Risk, and Resource Orders on Large Wildland Fires in the Western US

Smoke and Air Quality-
The effectiveness of adding fire for air quality benefits challenged: A case study of increased fine particulate matter from wilderness fire smoke with more active fire management

Smoke Emissions-
Wildland fire emission factors in North America: synthesis of existing data, measurement needs and management applications

Extreme wildfires are changing Western forests - High Country News

Thinning, prescribed burns protected forests during the massive Carlton Complex wildfire - UW News

Agencies hurry to devise wildland firefighting protocols in coronavirus era - Missoulian

Rethinking fire with data analytics and systems design - MIT News

Adjusting to Our Changing Realities - FAC Net

‘Uncharted Territory’ as Wildfire Fighting Adapts to Pandemic
 - Environment and Energy Report

Wildland Fire Camps Need Dramatic Change Amid COVID-19 Pandemic - NPR

California Fire Science Consortium Newsletter, March 2020

Great Basin Fire Science Research and Events, May 2020

Northwest Fire Science Consortium Newsletter, April 2020

Southern Rockies Fire Science Network Newsletter, May 2020

Western Region National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Newsletter, April 2020

Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation Newsletter, April 2020

Wildland Fire Management RD&A Newsletter, Spring 2020

CONTACT US -- We'd like to hear your suggestions, ideas, and questions.

Vita Wright, Principal Investigator               |  406.396.5374                   
US Forest Service, Kalispell, Montana

Signe Leirfallom, Coordinator  |  406.546.4467
University of Montana, Missoula, Montana

Monique Wynecoop, Fire Ecologist & Tribal Liaison
NE WA Area Fire Ecologist, Region 6  |  509.684.7091                    
US Forest Service, Colville, Washington

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