Fire-weather drivers of severity and spread: Learning from past fire patterns to inform future wildfire decision making
Fire is an essential component in restoring and maintaining a healthy forest. However, historic land use and decades of fire suppression has excluded fire from millions of forested hectares across much of the western United States, including the Grand Canyon National Park. Forest restoration at the Grand Canyon aims to reduce wildfire vulnerability by applying fire to diversify or remove forest vegetation. However, the cost, complexity, and concerns associated with managing fire for resource benefit requires that fire managers utilize and implement locally-relevant, science-based knowledge to strategically identify when and where to use fire to produce the greatest benefits. This research specifically addresses the National Park Service, Fire Management Leadership Board priority area of: Research that assists in removing stumbling blocks and hurdles for implementing fuels treatments and managing wildfires for resource objectives. We observed fire behavior in the Grand Canyon in conjunction with topographic variation and weather conditions to provide thresholds that affect fire severity and spread that may be beneficial or incompatible with multiple resource objectives. In doing so, we also developed customized tools that can be used to assist with fire management planning and quickly identifying conditions likely to affect fire behavior at Grand Canyon National Park.