Wildfire is a global phenomenon that affects human populations and ecosystems. Wildfire effects occur at local to global scales impacting many people in different ways (Figure 1). Ecological concerns due to land use, fragmentation, and climate change impact natural resource use, allocation, and conservation. Access to consistent and current environmental data is a constant challenge, yet necessary for understanding the complexities of wildfire and ecological management. Data products and tools from the LANDFIRE Program help decision-makers to clarify problems and identify possible solutions when managing fires and natural resources. LANDFIRE supports the reduction of risk from wildfire to human lives and property, monitoring of fire danger, prediction of fire behavior on active incidents, and assessment of fire severity and impacts on natural systems   . LANDFIRE products are unique in that they are nationally consistent and provide the only complete geospatial dataset describing vegetation and wildland fuel information for the entire U.S. As such, LANDFIRE data are useful for many ecological applications . For example, LANDFIRE data were recently integrated into a decision-support system for resource management and conservation decision-making along the Appalachian Trail.
LANDFIRE is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Wildland Fire, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Fire & Aviation Management, and The Nature Conservancy. To date, seven versions of LANDFIRE data have been released, with each successive version improving the quality of the data, adding additional features, and/or updating the time period represented by the data. The latest version, LANDFIRE 2010 (LF 2010), released mid-2013, represents circa 2010 landscape conditions and succeeds LANDFIRE 2008 (LF 2008), which represented circa 2008 landscape conditions. LF 2010 used many of the same processes developed for the LF 2008 effort .
Ongoing refinement of the LANDFIRE vegetation and fuel data is necessary to improve the quality and usability of the data and to capture landscape disturbance. LANDFIRE relies on Landsat multi-spectral imagery to produce and update vegetation and fuel data. The deep Landsat archive provides data needed for vegetation classification, change analysis, and historical disturbance characterization, for which LANDFIRE has used more than 24,000 image scenes since the program’s inception. In addition, LF 2010 used airborne and spaceborne lidar, and spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to map vegetation structure in areas where ground-based field information was lacking, including Alaska and U.S.-affiliated islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The mapping of insular areas is new for the 2010 data release; previous versions of LANDFIRE were limited to the conterminous U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii.