Research Review

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Forest Service Scientists Are Developing Fire-Weather and Smoke Prediction Tools-- Where There's Fire, There's Smoke

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Today’s headlines highlight the problem that wildland fires have become in the United States, especially in the West. A century of aggressive fire suppression resulted in the growth of fire-susceptible forests in many places where fire-dependent and fire-resistant ecosystems had previously flourished. Complicating today’s fire problems is the building of more communities and second homes in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), putting more people and their possessions directly in the path of fires.

Weather and climate affect wildland fires in many ways. Drought can kill vegetation, creating fuels that are conducive to extreme and erratic fire behavior. Episodic high temperatures and low relative humidity exacerbate longer-term drought effects and make fires harder to extinguish. Ambient and fire-induced winds can intensify the flames, often carrying fire into tree crowns and across roads and firebreaks and spreading embers miles away. Lightning starts many fires in dry regions. Knowing the specific weather conditions and dangers in fire-prone areas and specifically at fire lines is vital to good management and to the safety of fire crews.

View the September 2014 Research Review (2.5 MB PDF)

For more information contact

Jane Hodgins
Public Affairs Specialist
USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station
1992 Folwell Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108


Last modified: September15, 2014