Fire Policy

Peshtigo Fire 150th Anniversary logo

The Preshtigo paradigm

Webinar registration.

For 50 years the kind of fire that swept over Peshtigo plagued the Great Lakes region, in both the U.S. and Canada. The fires furnished an important background for state-sponsored conservation and especially a program of fire protection.

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Wildfire risk management science team

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During this virtual workshop we will share case studies and lessons learned from the field, showcase multiple scales of potential operational delineations (PODs) work that have been utilized and adapted for a range of applications, identify necessary developments in collaborative fire planning and PODs, and much more.

The workshop will be hosted by RMRS’s Wildfire Risk Management Science (WRMS) team. The WRMS team co-developed PODs and other fire planning tools in collaboration with local experts. These tools have been widely adopted by national forests and other fire and land management groups.

The workshop is designed for a variety of audiences including fuels planners, FMOs, line officers, management planners, community collaboratives, scientists, state and local fire and fuel managers, and consultants. Interested and new users are encouraged to attend.

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Pre-season fire management planning: the use of Potential Operational Delineations to prepare for wildland fire events

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US fire scientists are developing Potential Wildfire Operational Delineations, also known as ‘PODs’, as a pre-fire season planning tool to promote safe and effective wildland fire response, strengthen risk management approaches in fire management and better align fire management objectives. PODs are a collaborative planning approach based on spatial analytics to identify potential wildfire control lines and assess the desirability of fire before ignition. They offer the opportunity to apply risk management principles with partners before the compressed timeframe of incident response. We sought to understand the potential utility of PODs and factors that may affect their use through semi-structured interviews with personnel on several national forests. Interviewees said PODs offer a promising shift in the wildland fire management dynamic, particularly by facilitating proactive communication and coordination about wildfire response. Successfully employing PODs will require leadership commitment, stakeholder and partner engagement and interdisciplinary staff involvement. Our work offers insights for national forests and other jurisdictions where managers are looking to strengthen coordination and strategic approaches for wildland fire response by utilizing pre-season collaboration and data analytics.

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Use of science in wildland fire management: Barriers and facilitators

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This study developed a conceptual model that describes the possible uses of science in fire management (perception, planning, forecasting, implementation, assessment, communication, and policy), common barriers to science use (lack of science, uncertainty, funding/capacity, conflict), common facilitators to fire science use (collaboration, trust, boundary organizations, co-production), and factors that can act as facilitators or barriers to science use depending on their presence or absence (awareness, accessibility, relevance). In the context of our conceptual model, we reviewed 67 papers that examined fire science use between 1986 and 2019.

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Joint Fire Science Program 2019 progress report

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This progress report highlights some of the many contributions and impacts of the JFSP over the past 2 years including:

  • Continued scientific output from wildland fire research through manuscripts, management briefs, decision-support tools, and syntheses.
  • Efficient delivery of wildland fire science to practitioners through the nationwide Fire Science Exchange Network.
  • Incorporation of wildland fire science to improve policy, restoration success, public and firefighter health and safety, and fuels management, among others.
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Effects of policy change on wildland fire management strategies: Evidence for a paradigm shift in the western US?

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In 2009, new guidance for wildland fire management in the United States expanded the range of strategic options for managers working to reduce the threat of high-severity wildland fire, improve forest health and respond to a changing climate. Markedly, the new guidance provided greater flexibility to manage wildland fires to meet multiple resource objectives. We use Incident Status Summary reports to understand how wildland fire management strategies have differed across the western US in recent years and how management has changed since the 2009 Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. When controlling for confounding variation, we found the 2009 Policy Guidance along with other concurrent advances in fire management motivated an estimated 27 to 73% increase in the number of fires managed with expanded strategic options, with only limited evidence of an increase in size or annual area burned. Fire weather captured a manager’s intent and allocation of fire management resources relative to burning conditions, where a manager’s desire and ability to suppress is either complemented by fire weather, at odds with fire weather, or put aside due to other priorities. We highlight opportunities to expand the use of strategic options in fire-adapted forests to improve fuel heterogeneity.

Webinar, video, audio icon

Effects of policy change on wildland fire management strategies

Webinar recording.

In 2009, new guidance for wildland fire management in the United States expanded the range of strategic options for managers working to reduce the threat of high-severity wildland fire, improve forest health and respond to a changing climate. Markedly, the new guidance provided greater flexibility to manage wildland fires to meet multiple resource objectives. We use Incident Status Summary reports to understand how wildland fire management strategies have differed across the western US in recent years and how management has changed since the 2009 Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. When controlling for confounding variation, we found the 2009 Policy Guidance along with other concurrent advances in fire management motivated an estimated 27 to 73% increase in the number of fires managed with expanded strategic options, with only limited evidence of an increase in size or annual area burned. Fire weather captured a manager’s intent and allocation of fire management resources relative to burning conditions, where a manager’s desire and ability to suppress is either complemented by fire weather, at odds with fire weather, or put aside due to other priorities. We highlight opportunities to expand the use of strategic options in fire-adapted forests to improve fuel heterogeneity.

Webinar, video, audio icon

New findings on policy barriers and opportunities: Strategies for increasing prescribed fire application on federal lands from case studies in the US West

Webinar recording.

Prescribed fire is an important management tool on federal lands that is not being applied at the necessary or desired levels. Since 2017, we have been investigating policy barriers and opportunities for increasing prescribed fire application on US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands in the Western United States. In the first phase of our work, we found that lack of adequate capacity and funding were the most commonly cited barriers to increasing application of prescribed fire, and that successful approaches rely on collaborative forums and positions that allow for communication, problem-solving, and resource sharing among federal and state partners. In 2019, we completed case studies of locations using unique strategies to increase application of prescribed fire in complex land management contexts. This webinar reports on the primary themes from these case studies, highlighting specific examples of practice from different Forest Service and BLM units.

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Online Fire and Natural Resources Courses from the University of Idaho

Please visit the UI website for details about dates and timing.

The University of Idaho (UI) offers a variety of online fire and natural resources courses with Great Basin content.  These courses and degree programs can help you develop as a professional and succeed in fire and natural resources management. View the list of online courses or certificate and degree programs. Consider taking one or more online courses, a certificate or enroll in a degree program. This is a great option as many professionals are place-bound, face limits on travel budgets, and are challenged to effectively accomplish science-based management on the ground to address pressing needs for management and conservation in Great Basin ecosystems and beyond.

The Fire Ecology, Management and Technology Certificate and the Master of Natural Resources (MNR) degree can be completed entirely online — without ever coming to campus, and at in-state tuition rates for all.

As many professionals are place-bound and face limits on travel, these online training options can help practitioners accomplish science-based management on the ground to address land management challenges in the Great Basin and beyond.

Questions? Contact [email protected]

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Forest Service fire management and the elusiveness of change

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There is broad recognition that fire management in the United States must fundamentally change and depart from practices that have led to an over-emphasis on suppression and limited the presence of fire in forested ecosystems. In this paper, we look at competing problem definitions in US Forest Service policy for fire management, the presence of goal ambiguity, and how these factors can explain why changes in fire management have been elusive, despite policy change. We consider US Forest Service fire policies, performance incentives, and decision-making processes for two sides of the agency: the National Forest System, which is responsible for land management on the national forests, and Fire and Aviation Management, which oversees response to wildland fire.

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