Spot-fire distance increases for wildfires compared to Rx fires as grasslands transition to juniper woodlands

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This study found prescribed fire used to control woody encroachment had lower maximum spot-fire distances compared to wildfires and, correspondingly, a lower amount of land area at risk to spot-fire occurrence. Under more extreme wildfire scenarios, spot-fire distances were 2 times higher in grasslands, and over 3 times higher in encroached grasslands and Juniperus woodlands compared to fires burned under prescribed fire conditions. Maximum spot-fire distance was 450% greater in Juniperus woodlands compared to grasslands and exposed an additional 14,000 ha of receptive fuels, on average, to spot-fire occurrence within the Loess Canyons Experimental Landscape. This study demonstrates that woody encroachment drastically increases risks associated with wildfire, and that spot fire distances associated with woody encroachment are much lower in prescribed fires used to control woody encroachment compared to wildfires.

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