Northern Research Station News Releases

Fire research aims to make fuels reduction more efficient, wildfire less potent

Dr. Ken Clark, USFS Research Forester, checks instruments on a meteorological tower. Newtown Square, PA, September 12, 2014 - On a small experimental forest in the 1.1-million-acre Pinelands National Reserve in New Jersey, U.S. Forest Service scientists and partners are using fire science to fight fire. Their work aims to improve the understanding of hazardous fuels reduction and make it a more efficient tool in mitigating the costs and impacts of wildfire.

Earlier this year, a prescribed burn near the Silas Little Experimental Forest, located within the Pinelands National Reserve, served as an opportunity for researchers with the Forest Service to integrate state-of-the-art remote sensing methodologies with leading edge numeric modeling of fire spread to test the principals and physics behind fuel reduction treatments. The 3-year project was funded by the Joint Fire Science Program.

In March, a study designed by a collaborative team of Forest Service and university collaborators was conducted in partnership with New Jersey State Forestry Services. Detailed maps of canopy fuels were developed both before and after the fire, with Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR). The fire burned 18 acres dotted with video cameras, 3-D wind sensors, thermocouples, heat flux meters, and other equipment. An aircraft equipped with an infrared camera monitored fire spread and intensity during the burn.

“Modern techniques such as LiDAR and improvements in numerical modeling are giving us a much better understanding of the fire environment,” said Nick Skowronski, a research forester with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and lead Forest Service scientist for the experiment. “These advances are helping us improve our understanding of how climate, weather, fuels, and management interact to drive fires.”

One element of the experiment, relevant to homeowners, was a study of fire brands, or embers, and how they are generated and transported within a fire. The research is highlighted in a video news article posted on the Forest Service YouTube Channel at: http://youtu.be/XcfT6UwhMaE

“This research and other Forest Service research is helping land managers make science-based decisions about where and when fuels treatments will be effective.” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and Forest Products Laboratory. “This science informs forest health and ultimately, the health and safety of people.”  

The Silas Little Experimental Forest is a 530-acre experimental forest was established in 1933 through an agreement with the state of New Jersey, with the dual goals of reducing destructive wildfires while encouraging the regeneration of commercially important species. Two notable past research efforts are the earliest use of prescribed fires to reduce wildfire risk in the northeastern United States, and the development of a pitch/loblolly pine hybrid that has been planted extensively throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

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The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of our nation’s forests, amounting to 850 million acres including 100 million acres of urban forests gracing the nation’s cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

 

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.

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Last modified: September 12, 2014