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Using climate information for fuels management

Climate Ecosystem Fire Applications CEFA Report 08-01
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Abstract

Climate has come to the forefront of wildfire discussions in recent years as research contributes to the general understanding of how climate influences fuels availability to burn, the occurrence of severe fire weather conditions and other wildfire parameters. This understanding has crossed over into wildfire management applications through the creation of tools like climate forecasts for wildfire and drought indices, which are now widely used in wildfire suppression and mitigation planning. The overall question is how can climate information help fire managers meet management objectives? Climate underlies weather. For example, a number of days could be generally wet, but that may occur in the context of a two-year overall drought. Knowing the baseline climate is not only critical to preventing escaped prescribed fires, but also how it may affect fire behavior, fire effects and whether or not fire managers will meet their fuels management objectives. Thus, for fire managers to use prescribed and WFU fire safely and effectively, and to minimize the number of escaped fires and conversions to suppression, they need to understand how current climate conditions will impact the use of fire. One example is the need to use prescribed fire under set “burn windows”. Since meteorological conditions vary considerably from year to year for a given day, fire managers will be more successful in utilizing burn windows effectively if they understand those climate thresholds conducive to an increased number of safe burn windows, and are able to predict and take advantage of those burn windows. While climate and wildfire has been studied extensively, climate and fire use has not. The initial goal of this project was to assess how climate impacts prescribed fire use in a more general sense. After a preliminary informal survey in the spring of 2003, we determined that 1) there is insufficient data (less than 10 years) to conduct empirical correlative studies similar to those of the relationships between climate and wildfire (e.g., Swetnam and Betancourt 1990), and 2) prescribed fire policy has many regulations that potentially inhibited the use of climate information for decision-making. It was also determined that because fire use is a human decision, it would be more informative to ask fire managers themselves how climate impacts fire use through their decision-making processes, and whether or not they use climate information for prescribed fire. The first task for this project was to complete a regional survey of prescribed fire managers in California and Nevada. During the second phase of the project, additional prescribed fire managers were surveyed across the country. During the third year a second survey of WFU managers was completed. The goals of these inquiries were to determine: 1) If fire managers use climate information for fuels management; 2) The perspective fire managers have towards climate affecting fuels management; 3) Determine any obstacles that make it difficult to use climate information for fuels management; and 4) Determine climate information managers need to help them make better decisions for fire use.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Using climate information for fuels management
Series title Climate Ecosystem Fire Applications
Series number CEFA Report 08-01
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Desert Research Institute
Publisher location Reno, NV
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 53 p.
First page 1
Last page 53
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N