Monday, September 26, 2011

FTEUS - Fuel Treatment Effectiveness in the United States Project

Abstract: Fuel Treatment Effectiveness in the United States - FTEUS Project

The fire situation in the United States is well documented with a growing prevalence of larger and more intense fires that have increasingly severe consequences for affected ecosystems and human health and well being. Wildland fire managers have the task of mitigating the impacts of wildfires that will inevitably occur. Increasingly, fuels management has been put forth and implemented as part of an integral strategy for minimizing fire risk, extreme fire behavior, area affected by wildfire and both the economic and ecological costs of fires. These activities take a multitude of forms, from stand alone prescribed fires to various types of thinning or combinations of treatments. However, managers need to know how cumulative wildland fuels treatments act at the landscape level (Task 2) and, furthermore, how long effective life spans of treatment are (Task 3).

The proposed project will quantify the effectiveness of fuel treatments across the nation in terms of their measurable effects on fire severity (site) and fire spread (landscape). To do this, we will capitalize on the fire atlas information from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) project, the fuel treatment information from the NFPORS database, and the fuels and topography data from the LANDFIRE project. Initial inference of possible fuel treatments subjected to fire will be derived by intersection of NFPORS spatial information (e.g. centroid or polygon data) with the MTBS fire perimeters. For 2006-2008, all large fires in the continental U.S. (>500 acres east; >1000 acres west of 97 degrees) that meet these criteria will be evaluated in a GIS environment for burn severity (based on dNBR) differences between fuel treatment areas and untreated forests. Fuel treatment type, age, size and configuration and placement on the landscape will be factored into the spatial and statistical analyses. Using the fire atlases for 1984-2005, all large fires with affected treatments in the Northwest and California (MTBS scheduled completion for 2007), and the majority of the Southeast, Southwest and North Central (completion 2009) will be analyzed.

It is expected that more than 7,000 MTBS fires will be screened and that several hundred (5-10%) will have fuel treatments affected by fire. Through use of ancillary data from LANDFIRE, all fire-affected forest pixels will be assigned slope, aspect and elevation information in a spatial database that will include treatment type and age information. To assess the landscape level influence of the fuel treatments, we will utilize recorded fire-related data (wind, fuel moisture etc) and the fuels and ancillary data from LANDFIRE to run FARSITE both with and without the fuels treatments. The fuels treatments are not currently reflected in the LANDFIRE data layers. We will adjust the LANDFIRE fuels information to account for fuel treatments and then run FARSITE with adjustments such that the resulting fire extent closely matches the actual fire perimeters from MTBS. We will then substitute the original LANDFIRE fuels data, which does not include any fuels treatments, and run the same fire scenario fuels treatments. Simulated fire extents will then be compared to provide an estimate of the cumulative landscape level effect of the combined treatments at each site. For major ecosystem types and treatments, model runs will be conducted where individual factors are varied (e.g. slope, wind, fuel moisture, treatment age) to provide sensitivity analyses of the conditions under which different treatments effectively mitigate landscape and site level fire extent and behavior.

This study will provide wildland fire managers and policy makers with a better understanding of how conditions and location will affect the effectiveness of treatments. It will also supply the tools and data needed to make strategic decisions on planning and implementing fuels treatments and appropriate fuels management policies. This project will also provide an operational test of NFPORS and the LANDFIRE and MTBS deliverables.

See FTEUS reports.


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