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Fire, Volume 1, Issue 1 (June 2018)

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Cover Story (view full-size image) The Thomas fire burned >113,000 hectares from early December 2017 to late January 2018, making it [...] Read more.
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Open AccessArticle The 2017 North Bay and Southern California Fires: A Case Study
Received: 15 April 2018 / Revised: 31 May 2018 / Accepted: 5 June 2018 / Published: 9 June 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (4274 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Two extreme wind-driven wildfire events impacted California in late 2017, leading to 46 fatalities and thousands of structures lost. This study characterizes the meteorological and climatological factors that drove and enabled these wildfire events and quantifies their rarity over the observational record. Both
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Two extreme wind-driven wildfire events impacted California in late 2017, leading to 46 fatalities and thousands of structures lost. This study characterizes the meteorological and climatological factors that drove and enabled these wildfire events and quantifies their rarity over the observational record. Both events featured key fire-weather metrics that were unprecedented in the observational record that followed a sequence of climatic conditions that enhanced fine fuel abundance and fuel availability. The North Bay fires of October 2017 occurred coincident with strong downslope winds, with a majority of burned area occurring within the first 12 hours of ignition. By contrast, the southern California fires of December 2017 occurred during the longest Santa Ana wind event on record, resulting in the largest wildfire in California’s modern history. Both fire events occurred following an exceptionally wet winter that was preceded by a severe four-year drought. Fuels were further preconditioned by the warmest summer and autumn on record in northern and southern California, respectively. Finally, delayed onset of autumn precipitation allowed for critically low dead fuel moistures leading up to the wind events. Fire weather conditions were well forecast several days prior to the fire. However, the rarity of fire-weather conditions that occurred near populated regions, along with other societal factors such as limited evacuation protocols and limited wildfire preparedness in communities outside of the traditional wildland urban interface were key contributors to the widespread wildfire impacts. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective Switching on the Big Burn of 2017
Received: 11 May 2018 / Revised: 29 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 5 June 2018
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Abstract
Fuel, aridity, and ignition switches were all on in 2017, making it one of the largest and costliest wildfire years in the United States (U.S.) since national reporting began. Anthropogenic climate change helped flip on some of these switches rapidly in 2017, and
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Fuel, aridity, and ignition switches were all on in 2017, making it one of the largest and costliest wildfire years in the United States (U.S.) since national reporting began. Anthropogenic climate change helped flip on some of these switches rapidly in 2017, and kept them on for longer than usual. Anthropogenic changes to the fire environment will increase the likelihood of such record wildfire years in the coming decades. The 2017 wildfires in the U.S. constitute part of a shifting baseline in risks and costs; meanwhile, effective policies have lagged behind, leaving communities highly vulnerable. Policy efforts to build better and burn better, in the U.S. as well as in other nations with flammable ecosystems, will promote adaptation to increasing wildfire in a warming world. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Flame-Front Rate of Spread Estimates for Moderate Scale Experimental Fires Are Strongly Influenced by Measurement Approach
Received: 15 April 2018 / Revised: 2 May 2018 / Accepted: 4 May 2018 / Published: 9 May 2018
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Abstract
Understanding wildfire rate of spread (RoS) is often a key objective of many fire behavior modelling and measurement exercises. Using instrumented moderate scale laboratory burns we provide an assessment of eight different methods of flame front RoS determination, including visible imagery (VIS) analysis
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Understanding wildfire rate of spread (RoS) is often a key objective of many fire behavior modelling and measurement exercises. Using instrumented moderate scale laboratory burns we provide an assessment of eight different methods of flame front RoS determination, including visible imagery (VIS) analysis techniques, use of thermocouple arrays, and four thermal infrared (IR) image analysis approaches. We are able to (1) determine how measurement approach influences derived RoS, and (2) recommend the best method to reproduce the accepted standard (Thermocouple Grid Array measurement) RoS without ground sampling. We find that derived RoS is statistically significantly influenced by the measurement approach, and that failing to fully account for directionality of the RoS may result in significant error. We identify one of the thermal infrared imaging methods (described in Paugam et al. 2013), as the most appropriate for providing rate and direction of spread at these scales of measurement. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective Selecting Low-Flammability Plants as Green Firebreaks within Sustainable Urban Garden Design
Received: 20 April 2018 / Revised: 7 May 2018 / Accepted: 7 May 2018 / Published: 9 May 2018
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Abstract
In response to an increasing risk of property loss from wildfires at the urban–wildland interface[…] Full article
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Open AccessArticle Conceptualizing Ecological Flammability: An Experimental Test of Three Frameworks Using Various Types and Loads of Surface Fuels
Received: 5 March 2018 / Revised: 5 April 2018 / Accepted: 27 April 2018 / Published: 1 May 2018
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Abstract
Vegetation flammability remains poorly defined and involves many intercorrelated components and metrics. Schwilk (2015) proposed a flammability framework with only two axes: total heat release and rate of spread. Pausas et al. (2017) modified this framework by standardizing the heat release axis by
[...] Read more.
Vegetation flammability remains poorly defined and involves many intercorrelated components and metrics. Schwilk (2015) proposed a flammability framework with only two axes: total heat release and rate of spread. Pausas et al. (2017) modified this framework by standardizing the heat release axis by fuel load, and adding a third axis of fuel ignitability. We tested these frameworks using data from a field experiment that quantified flammability metrics and survival of Callitris intratropica saplings in relation to fuel type (grass, litter, and mixed grass and litter, all air-dried) and fuel load. Principal components analysis showed PC1 was closely aligned with rate of combustion, flame height and temperature, and PC2 was aligned with duration of combustion. The Schwilk framework separated the fuel types according to rate of spread, and fuel loads according to total heat release. The Pausas framework was less useful in describing community-scale flammability because it removed the effects of fuel load, and there was no support for adding the ignitability axis. Both frameworks successfully predicted sapling mortality, an indicator of fire severity. In addition, the three flammability strategies proposed by Pausas et al. were not well-supported because they assumed unrealistically low heat release by ‘fast-flammable’ fuels. We conclude that the Schwilk framework is useful for conceptualizing community-scale flammability and facilitates modelling for fire management purposes, and exploration of evolutionary relationships. Full article
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Open AccessConcept Paper A Hierarchical Classification of Wildland Fire Fuels for Australian Vegetation Types
Received: 19 March 2018 / Revised: 6 April 2018 / Accepted: 11 April 2018 / Published: 17 April 2018
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Abstract
Appropriate categorisation and description of living vegetation and dead biomass is necessary to support the rising complexity of managing wildland fire and healthy ecosystems. We propose a hierarchical, physiognomy-based classification of wildland fire fuels—the Bushfire Fuel Classification—aimed at integrating the large diversity of
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Appropriate categorisation and description of living vegetation and dead biomass is necessary to support the rising complexity of managing wildland fire and healthy ecosystems. We propose a hierarchical, physiognomy-based classification of wildland fire fuels—the Bushfire Fuel Classification—aimed at integrating the large diversity of Australian vegetation into distinct fuel types that are easily communicated and quantitatively described. At its basis, the classification integrates life form characteristics, height, and foliage cover. The hierarchical framework, with three tiers, describes fuel types over a range of application requirements and fuel description accuracies. At the higher level, the fuel classification identifies a total of 32 top-tier fuel types divided into 9 native forest or woodland, 2 plantation, 10 shrubland, 7 grassland, and 4 other fuel types: wildland urban interface areas, horticultural crops, flammable wetlands, and nonburnable areas. At an intermediate level, the classification identifies 51 mid-tier fuel types. Each mid-tier fuel type can be divided into 4 bottom-tier fuel descriptions. The fuel types defined within the tier system are accompanied by a quantitative description of their characteristics termed the “fuel catalogue”. Work is currently under way to link existing Australian state- and territory-based fuel and vegetation databases with the fuel classification and to collate existent fuel characteristics information to populate the fuel catalogue. The Bushfire Fuel Classification will underpin a range of fire management applications that require fuel information in order to determine fire behaviour and risk, fuel management, fire danger rating, and fire effects. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective The Politically Possible and Wildland Fire Research
Received: 14 February 2018 / Revised: 7 April 2018 / Accepted: 10 April 2018 / Published: 12 April 2018
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Abstract
Often missing or underdeveloped in wildland fire research is a clear sense of the link between contemporaneous political possibility and the desired ecological or management outcomes. We examine the disconnect between desired outcomes and what we call the “politically possible”. Politically possible policy
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Often missing or underdeveloped in wildland fire research is a clear sense of the link between contemporaneous political possibility and the desired ecological or management outcomes. We examine the disconnect between desired outcomes and what we call the “politically possible”. Politically possible policy solutions are those that recognize how compromise, stakeholder engagement, and the distribution of costs and benefits combine to structure political acceptability. Better attending to the politically possible in wildland fire-related research can, in turn, inform our understanding of the cause, effect, and the potential solutions to fire management challenges. We observe how a lack of awareness and attention to the politically possible can create divisions or barriers to realistic action. Full article
Open AccessPerspective Advancing Dendrochronological Studies of Fire in the United States
Received: 28 February 2018 / Revised: 30 March 2018 / Accepted: 4 April 2018 / Published: 10 April 2018
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Abstract
Dendroecology is the science that dates tree rings to their exact calendar year of formation to study processes that influence forest ecology (e.g., Speer 2010 [1], Amoroso et al., 2017 [2]) [...]
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Open AccessCase Report The Cooney Ridge Fire Experiment: An Early Operation to Relate Pre-, Active, and Post-Fire Field and Remotely Sensed Measurements
Received: 23 January 2018 / Revised: 12 March 2018 / Accepted: 21 March 2018 / Published: 29 March 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (80218 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The Cooney Ridge Fire Experiment conducted by fire scientists in 2003 was a burnout operation supported by a fire suppression crew on the active Cooney Ridge wildfire incident. The fire experiment included measurements of pre-fire fuels, active fire behavior, and immediate post-fire effects.
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The Cooney Ridge Fire Experiment conducted by fire scientists in 2003 was a burnout operation supported by a fire suppression crew on the active Cooney Ridge wildfire incident. The fire experiment included measurements of pre-fire fuels, active fire behavior, and immediate post-fire effects. Heat flux measurements collected at multiple scales with multiple ground and remote sensors illustrate the spatial and temporal complexity of the fire progression in relation to fuels and fire effects. We demonstrate how calculating cumulative heat release can provide a physically based estimate of fuel consumption that is indicative of fire effects. A map of cumulative heat release complements estimates of ground cover constituents derived from post-fire hyperspectral imagery for mapping immediate post-fire ground cover measures of litter and mineral soil. We also present one-year and 10-year post-fire measurements of overstory, understory, and surface conditions in a longer-term assessment of site recovery. At the time, the Cooney Ridge Fire Experiment exposed several limitations of current state-of-science fire measurement methods, many of which persist in wildfire and prescribed fire studies to this day. This Case Report documents an important milestone in relating multiple spatiotemporal measurements of pre-fire, active fire, and post-fire phenomena both on the ground and remotely. Full article
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Open AccessConcept Paper Defining Extreme Wildfire Events: Difficulties, Challenges, and Impacts
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 10 February 2018 / Accepted: 14 February 2018 / Published: 25 February 2018
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Abstract
Every year worldwide some extraordinary wildfires occur, overwhelming suppression capabilities, causing substantial damages, and often resulting in fatalities. Given their increasing frequency, there is a debate about how to address these wildfires with significant social impacts, but there is no agreement upon terminology
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Every year worldwide some extraordinary wildfires occur, overwhelming suppression capabilities, causing substantial damages, and often resulting in fatalities. Given their increasing frequency, there is a debate about how to address these wildfires with significant social impacts, but there is no agreement upon terminology to describe them. The concept of extreme wildfire event (EWE) has emerged to bring some coherence on this kind of events. It is increasingly used, often as a synonym of other terms related to wildfires of high intensity and size, but its definition remains elusive. The goal of this paper is to go beyond drawing on distinct disciplinary perspectives to develop a holistic view of EWE as a social-ecological phenomenon. Based on literature review and using a transdisciplinary approach, this paper proposes a definition of EWE as a process and an outcome. Considering the lack of a consistent “scale of gravity” to leverage extreme wildfire events such as in natural hazards (e.g., tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes) we present a proposal of wildfire classification with seven categories based on measurable fire spread and behavior parameters and suppression difficulty. The categories 5 to 7 are labeled as EWE. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective Pyro-Ecophysiology: Shifting the Paradigm of Live Wildland Fuel Research
Received: 6 February 2018 / Revised: 9 February 2018 / Accepted: 12 February 2018 / Published: 16 February 2018
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Abstract
The most destructive wildland fires occur in mixtures of living and dead vegetation, yet very little attention has been given to the fundamental differences between factors that control their flammability. Historically, moisture content has been used to evaluate the relative flammability of live
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The most destructive wildland fires occur in mixtures of living and dead vegetation, yet very little attention has been given to the fundamental differences between factors that control their flammability. Historically, moisture content has been used to evaluate the relative flammability of live and dead fuels without considering major, unreported differences in the factors that control their variations across seasons and years. Physiological changes at both the leaf and whole plant level have the potential to explain ignition and fire behavior phenomena in live fuels that have been poorly explained for decades. Here, we explore how these physiological changes violate long-held assumptions about live fuel dynamics and we present a conceptual model that describes how plant carbon and water cycles independently and interactively influence plant flammability characteristics at both the leaf and whole plant scale. This new ecophysiology-based approach can help us expand our understanding of potential plant responses to environmental change and how those physiological changes may impact plant flammability. Furthermore, it may ultimately help us better manage wildland fires in an uncertain future. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective Sparking New Opportunities for Charcoal-Based Fire History Reconstructions
Received: 23 December 2017 / Revised: 8 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 February 2018 / Published: 14 February 2018
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Open AccessReview Some Requirements for Simulating Wildland Fire Behavior Using Insight from Coupled Weather—Wildland Fire Models
Received: 29 December 2017 / Revised: 2 February 2018 / Accepted: 6 February 2018 / Published: 9 February 2018
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Abstract
A newer generation of models that interactively couple the atmosphere with fire behavior have shown an increased potential to understand and predict complex, rapidly changing fire behavior. This is possible if they capture intricate, time-varying microscale airflows in mountainous terrain and fire-atmosphere feedbacks.
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A newer generation of models that interactively couple the atmosphere with fire behavior have shown an increased potential to understand and predict complex, rapidly changing fire behavior. This is possible if they capture intricate, time-varying microscale airflows in mountainous terrain and fire-atmosphere feedbacks. However, this benefit is counterbalanced by additional limitations and requirements, many arising from the atmospheric model upon which they are built. The degree to which their potential is realized depends on how coupled models are built, configured, and applied. Because these are freely available to users with widely ranging backgrounds, I present some limitations and requirements that must be understood and addressed to achieve meaningful fire behavior simulation results. These include how numerical weather prediction models are formulated for specific scales, their solution methods and numerical approximations, optimal model configurations for common scenarios, and how these factors impact reproduction of fire events and phenomena. I discuss methods used to adjust inadequate outcomes and advise on critical interpretation of fire modeling results, such as where errors from model limitations may be misinterpreted as natural unpredictability. I discuss impacts on other weather model-based applications that affect understanding of fire behavior and effects. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective Advancing Fire Science with Large Forest Plots and a Long-Term Multidisciplinary Approach
Received: 15 December 2017 / Revised: 21 January 2018 / Accepted: 30 January 2018 / Published: 1 February 2018
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Abstract
Large, spatially explicit forest plots have the potential to address currently understudied aspects of fire ecology and management, including the validation of physics-based fire behavior models and next-generation fire effects models. Pre-fire forest structures, fire-mediated mortality, and post-fire forest development can be examined
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Large, spatially explicit forest plots have the potential to address currently understudied aspects of fire ecology and management, including the validation of physics-based fire behavior models and next-generation fire effects models. Pre-fire forest structures, fire-mediated mortality, and post-fire forest development can be examined in a spatial context, and value can be added to current multidisciplinary approaches by adding a long-term perspective. Here we propose that the fire science community begin to build a collaborative network of fire-related large forest dynamics plots to examine explicit spatial patterns of surface fuels, tree mortality, and post-fire regeneration throughout ecosystems with frequent-fire forests. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Human-Related Ignitions Increase the Number of Large Wildfires across U.S. Ecoregions
Received: 26 December 2017 / Revised: 20 January 2018 / Accepted: 23 January 2018 / Published: 27 January 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (10292 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Large fires account for the majority of burned area and are an important focus of fire management. However, ‘large’ is typically defined by a fire size threshold, minimizing the importance of proportionally large fires in less fire-prone ecoregions. Here, we defined ‘large fires’
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Large fires account for the majority of burned area and are an important focus of fire management. However, ‘large’ is typically defined by a fire size threshold, minimizing the importance of proportionally large fires in less fire-prone ecoregions. Here, we defined ‘large fires’ as the largest 10% of wildfires by ecoregion (n = 175,222 wildfires from 1992 to 2015) across the United States (U.S.). Across ecoregions, we compared fire size, seasonality, and environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed, fuel moisture, biomass, vegetation type) of large human- and lighting-started fires that required a suppression response. Mean large fire size varied by three orders of magnitude: from 1 to 10 ha in the Northeast vs. >1000 ha in the West. Humans ignited four times as many large fires as lightning, and were the dominant source of large fires in the eastern and western U.S. (starting 92% and 65% of fires, respectively). Humans started 80,896 large fires in seasons when lightning-ignited fires were rare. Large human-started fires occurred in locations and months of significantly higher fuel moisture and wind speed than large lightning-started fires. National-scale fire policy should consider risks to ecosystems and economies by these proportionally large fires and include human drivers in large fire risk assessment. Full article
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Open AccessViewpoint Managing Fire and Biodiversity in the Wildland-Urban Interface: A Role for Green Firebreaks
Received: 19 December 2017 / Revised: 20 December 2017 / Accepted: 20 December 2017 / Published: 22 December 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (363 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In the wildland-urban interface, the imperative is often to protect life and property from destructive fires, while also conserving biodiversity. One potential tool for achieving this goal is the use of green firebreaks: strips of low flammability species planted at strategic locations to
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In the wildland-urban interface, the imperative is often to protect life and property from destructive fires, while also conserving biodiversity. One potential tool for achieving this goal is the use of green firebreaks: strips of low flammability species planted at strategic locations to help reduce fire spread by slowing or stopping the fire front, extinguishing embers or blocking radiant heat. If comprised of native species, green firebreaks also have biodiversity benefits. Green firebreaks have been recommended for use throughout the world, including the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia. However, despite this widespread endorsement, there has been little empirical testing of green firebreaks, particularly with field experiments. This knowledge gap needs addressing. Green firebreaks should be considered as part of the revegetation strategy following recent extensive wildfires in places such as New Zealand and Chile. Full article
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Open AccessEditorial Introducing Fire: A Transdisciplinary Journal to Advance Understanding and Management of Landscape Fires from Local to Global Scales in the Past, Present, and Future
Received: 14 November 2017 / Accepted: 14 November 2017 / Published: 15 November 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (166 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
One of the many unique features of the Earth is landscape-scale fire [1].[...] Full article
Open AccessPerspective Big Fire; or, Introducing the Pyrocene
Received: 13 October 2017 / Revised: 20 October 2017 / Accepted: 21 October 2017 / Published: 23 October 2017
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Abstract
I present the case for a fire-centric scholarship, and suggest the transition between burning living landscapes and lithic ones (in the form of fossil fuels) would make a good demonstration of what such scholarship might do and what its value could be. Full article
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