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Fire Research, Silas Little Experimental Forest

[image:] Wildfire risk is real in the Pinelands National Reserve, a 1.1-million acre reserve in New Jersey. The photograph shows a prescribed fire at Silas Little Experimental Forest on March 15, 2013. Photo credit: Melanie Maghirang.  Photograph shows prescribed fire at the Cedar Bridge flux tower at Silas Little Experimental Forest.Multi-disciplinary fire and atmospheric science research by the U.S. Forest Service and partners at the Silas Little Experimental Forest in the New Jersey Pinelands is providing State and Federal fire and forest managers with better tools for predicting fire danger, fire risk, air quality impacts, and ecosystem functioning under changing environmental conditions.

Wildfire risk is real in the Pinelands National Reserve, a 1.1-million acre reserve dotted with villages and ringed by major metropolitan areas including Atlantic City, Trenton and Philadelphia.

Much of the landscape is dominated by highly flammable forests consisting of Pitch Pine and dense understory shrubs and oaks, and forests continue to be flammable despite repeated wildfires and/or fuel reduction treatments. Proximity to an extensive wildland urban interface and key transportation corridors surrounding the Pinelands make suppression activities complicated. Accurate, real-time fire weather data, fuel loading, and fuel moisture information is vital to human health, homes, and infrastructure in the region. 

Recent research efforts are leading to the development of next-generation smoke emission and fire behavior models. Collaborative efforts between the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and USDA Forest Service researchers during operational prescribed burns are providing key data for model validation.   

Research focuses on:

  • Improving the monitoring and delivery of fire weather and fire danger information to State and Federal fire managers in the Pinelands.
  • Use of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) systems and field measurements to characterize 3-dimensionsal forest structure and fuel loading across the Pinelands.
  • Quantifying fuel consumption and smoke emissions during hazardous fuel reduction treatments.
  • Quantifying the trade-offs between hazardous fuels management, carbon sequestration and water resources in forests in the Pinelands.

Scope

The Forest Service has partnered with many organizations to make this project a success.

Acres of Forest Affected
1.1 million
Established           
2003
Staff                                    

Two scientists and one technician plan and conduct field research, operate meteorological and flux towers, design and implement remote sensing campaigns,  provide data to collaborators, and update software and present training, plus supporting staff

Partners                       
13
Base Annual Budget for Fire Research at Silas Little EF
$280,000

 

Results

Fire research partnerships at the Silas Little Experimental Forest are:

  • Improving monitoring and delivery of fire weather and fire danger information to State and Federal wildland fire managers in the Pinelands.  
  • Validating predictive models for fire danger, fire behavior, and smoke emissions to assist wildland fire managers.
  • Generating a sampling framework to produce accurate measurements of canopy fuel loading in the Pinelands using destructive sampling and remote sensing (LIDAR) techniques for forests. 
  • Developing better understanding of the tradeoffs between hazardous fuel reduction treatments, wildfire risk, carbon sequestration, and water resources in forest ecosystems.

Impacts

Development of accurate fire weather, fuel loading, and fuel moisture information is vital to human health, homes, and infrastructure in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, much of which is dominated by highly flammable forests consisting of Pitch Pine and dense understory shrubs and oaks. Next-generation smoke emission models developed from data collected during operational prescribed burns will provide fire managers better tools to estimate air quality impacts to local communities and surrounding large population centers.  Development and validation of more accurate fire behavior models, based on 3-dimensional canopy fuel measurements and real-time turbulence and heat release measurements in the Pinelands will further our understanding of fire atmosphere interactions. 

Lessons Learned

The integration of partner expertise in operational fire danger rating, complex fuel bed characterization using remote sensing techniques, and landscape level measurements of forest productivity and water resources results in a synthetic framework to address the many complex issues associated with managing forests in the Pinelands of New Jersey.

[photo:] Stephen J. Maurer, Asst. State Firewarden, NJ Forest Fire Service 

“Our partnership with the researchers from the Northern Research Station and located at the Silas Little facility in New Jersey has been an outstanding success and should continue to be so. The results that have been produced to date have given us tangible products we use practically every day from snapshots of the fire weather conditions around the state, to fire behavior fuel models that actually work in the Pine Barrens region of the state, to empirical data that allows us to challenge the many voices attempting to modify and/or curtail our foremost fuels management tool of prescribed burning in the state. The continued relationship with these researchers will only improve the planning and operational potential of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and it is very much appreciated.”
--Stephen J. Maurer, Asst. State Firewarden, NJ Forest Fire Service 

Partner Organizations

Last Modified: July 8, 2013