U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Final Report JFSP 03-4-1-04


US government work.


Widespread fuel reduction programs have been initiated in many parts of the USA in response to a growing threat of wildland fire. Urban encroachment, fuels buildup from fire suppression, and drought all have been linked to increasing wildfire frequency and severity. Developing effective mitigation strategies is a challenging problem, especially on vast tracts of federally-managed wildlands in the western U.S. Fuel reduction activities on Federal lands are generally difficult to plan and implement due to cost, public expectations, and land management regulations. State of the art wildfire modeling is frequently required to demonstrate the benefits of fuels reduction treatments and defend fuel management projects. Designing and testing fuel treatment scenarios is complex, and many metrics, including fire spread, intensity, expected loss, and other ecological risks must be analyzed. The problem is compounded by poor data integration among fire behavior models, desktop GIS, and Forest Service corporate data. . In 2004 we proposed a 3-year project to the Joint Fire Science Program to streamline wildfire modeling for fuel management projects (Ager and McGaughey 2003). The project was funded for 1 year as a proof of concept, and subsequently funded for two additional years as in the original proposal. In the first phase of the project, we developed a library of macros using ArcObjects to integrate wildfire models and vegetation databases within ArcGIS. ArcFuels macros link vegetation and wildfire behavior models with MS-Access, Excel, and Forest Service vegetation databases, greatly improving the capability for real-time evaluation of proposed fuel treatments within ArcGIS. The macros automated much of the spatial analysis and wildfire modeling required in the Fireshed process (Bahro et al. 2006) and the SPOT Pilot program (Gercke and Stewart 2006, http://www.nifc.gov/spots/). In the second phase of the project, we focused on case studies and technology transfer. Substantial in-kind support was received from WO Wildfire RDA project headed by John Szymoniak, and the Western Wildland Environmental Threat Center in Prineville, OR. A contract programmer (John Anderson, BalanceTech, Missoula, MT) was employed to streamline the code and add functionality. A website was built (www.fs.fedf.us/pnw/arcfuels) and a number of hands-on workshops were conducted in Oregon and California with attendees from all Federal land management agencies. ArcFuels was adopted as the framework for the Fireshed and Stewardship Assessment program in Region 5. We developed an accelerated workshop format in Central Oregon where multiple projects are simultaneously analyzed in a workshop setting. This “RapidSpot” format is being further expanded to a national training in November 2007 in Portland, OR. Teams are being selected from all 10 Forest Service Regions and several participants from other agencies will bring data from 13 fuel treatment projects to the workshop for analysis. Parallel to the technology transfer efforts, we applied ArcFuels and related programs to develop a set of journal papers to demonstrate the integrated application of wildfire and vegetation models to address a number of science questions related to project level fuel treatment planning. Studies were published that examined longevity of fuel treatments, wildfire-bark beetle interactions, and the application of risk science to measure the performance of fuel treatment projects. As the JFSP project ends, we are working to integrate ArcFuels into national level planning coursework and expanding ArcFuels functionality to advance the application of quantitative risk assessment in fuel treatment planning.