Incident fire behavior analysts predicted the 2011 Las Conchas fire would calm down at night, but instead they witnessed a night-time blow-up between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. where 35-ft high “rolling barrels of fire” advanced rapidly downhill, quadrupling the fire’s size.
Article in July-Aug 2017 Popular Science by Kyle Dickman, sheds light on extreme fire behavior.
Rod Linn at the fire Los Alamos National Laboratory has been studying wildfires for 22 years, using computational models including weather and topography to explain unexpected behavior. In a recent Popular Science article he sheds light on some very interesting scenarios that caught the analysts off guard, including how an inversion developing in the evening spilled out of the Valles Grande basin like an overflowing bathtub and spawned the 26 ft/sec downslope night winds that blew up the Las Conchas fire. The article is very readable and sheds light on several other species of extreme fire behavior that will be of interest to anyone on the fireline. Pick up the July/August Popular Science or read it for free online here: https://www.popsci.com/las-conchas-wildfire-pillar-of-fire
P.S. Rod also published a series of articles for firefighters from the Los Alamos Lab and they are online. Here’s the link to the first one: Computer modeling helps us learn to live with wildfire.
It has long been assumed that bark beetle outbreaks on the Kenai lead to increased fire danger, even though beetle disturbance has been shown to have mixed effects on crown fire potential, fuel profiles and burn severity in the Rocky Mountains. Winslow Hansen, doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin, recently published an analysis of beetle outbreaks and fire on the Kenai Peninsula between 2001-2014 (Hansen et al. 2016). He looked at effects in pure white spruce stands–where duration of beetle attacks is longer and mortality greater–and in mixed white and black spruce stands common on the northern peninsula, where attacks are less severe. His analysis indicates mixed effects: severely damaged white spruce stands did not demonstrate increased fire occurrence (instead, % canopy cover appeared to drive likelihood of burning) while the mixed white/black spruce stands did show a positive correlation with beetle outbreaks and fire. Winston explores the reasons for this in his relatively short article: worth reading. You may remember Winslow from his previous work on beetles/fire effects and property values on the Kenai (recorded MS Thesis defense) and climate effects on fire regime (recorded 2015 presentation).
Citation: Hansen, W.D, F.S. Chapin III, H.T. Naughton, T.S. Rupp, and D. Verbyla. 2016. Forest-landscape structure mediates effects of a spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) outbreak on subsequent likelihood of burning in Alaskan boreal forest. Forest Ecology and Management 369: 38–46.
A new report by USFWS Kenai Refuge fire staff (Nate Perrine) examines
areas where the 2015 Card Street fire intersected completed fuels treatments. He utilized IFTDSS (Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System) modeling to analyze the treatment effect on fire behavior, and also documented post fire effects within the treated areas. This well-illustrated discussion includes recommendations for future treatments and analyses–a must-read for fire fuels specialists in Alaska! Click below to download a pdf.
The Effects and Use of Fuel Treatments during the Card Street Fire
Image from Jennifer Barnes, National Park Service
Date: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Time: 10:00 – 11:30 AM (AK Time)
Presented by: Matt Jolly, PhD
Research Ecologist, USFS
Fire, Fuel and Smoke Science Program
Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory
Live fuel moisture is measured frequently throughout the country as an indicator of potential fire behavior but little is known about the primary factors that drive their seasonal variations. Dr. Matt Jolly will delve into the interactive factors that control live fuel moisture and will discuss some of the potential implications of these factors on seasonal variations in the fire potential of living plants. Ultimately, he will show how the interactions between the water content of the foliage and seasonal changes in the leaf’s dry weight combine to influence calculated live fuel moisture and its flammability.
Read more about Dr. Jolly’s work with living plants and fire and the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab.
Foliar moisture content input in the Canadian Forest Fire Behavior Prediction System for areas outside of Canada
Martin E. Alexander, 2010
Assessing the effect of foliar moisture on the spread rate of crown fires
Martin E. Alexander and Miguel G. Cruz, 2012 [PDF]
Join The Webinar:
Click HERE to join this webinar (http://osu-pilot-conc.adobeconnect.com/dec202012/).
No pre-registration required. This link will be active at 9:45 am AK Time on Dec 20th. Select “Enter as a Guest” and provide your name where prompted to participate.
News from Science Daily:
More Catastrophic Fires Ahead for Western U.S..
Read the Full Journal Article:
J. R. Marlon, P. J. Bartlein, D. G. Gavin, C. J. Long, R. S. Anderson, C. E. Briles, K. J. Brown, D. Colombaroli, D. J. Hallett, M. J. Power, E. A. Scharf, M. K. Walsh. PNAS Plus: Long-term perspective on wildfires in the western USA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1112839109
Direct from the Source:
Inside NAU (Northern Arizona University)
Listen to how Rod Norum faced the challenge of a major fire burning toward the Alaska Pipeline–including a “monster” tactical 26-mile-long backfire.
Direct link to this video: http://youtu.be/2oLTxhLQd-E?t=3s
Visit the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for more videos from the experts.
JFSP Resprouting as FireScience.gov!
The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) launched into 2012 with a completely new web look and feel. Their new site is packed with new features and channels to help you stay connected.
- For daily information, be sure to follow Firescience.gov, the Regional Consortia (including Alaska!), and others in the increasingly robust wildland fire community on Twitter. It’s painless to sign up and you don’t have to actualy “Tweet” if you don’t want to!
- If you’re on Facebook be sure to Like their Facebook page to receive updates and information of interest to the wildland fire community.
- Most importantly – Join the JSFP Mailing List for newsletters and announcements. Check out the latest January 2012 release or browse previous newsletters. If you like what you see, use the links at the bottom to forward to anyone you think would benefit from broad, timely, relevant fire science updates.
On Fire: The Official Blog of Firescience.gov
The new blog – On Fire – brings you facts, insight, and commentary on the latest wildland fire science findings, management tools and recommndations. In the coming weeks they will be adding slideshows, videos and guest bloggers. Subscribe and share!
The Nenana Ridge Experimental Burn Project (06-2-1-396) Final Report is now available from the Joint Fire Science Program.
This project was funded by the Joint Fire Science Program with contributions from local, state and federal agencies. This project was designed to quantify the effects of fuels reduction treatments on fire behavior and post-fire vegetation dynamics in Alaska black spruce. The study began in 2006 with installation of four 1-acre treatment blocks. Two blocks were thinned to 8 x 8 foot spacing and limbed, one was shearbladed, and one was shearbladed and windrowed. These four blocks were replicated in the adjacent forest unit, with the intent to burn each Unit (A and B) separately. Unit A was successfully ignited on June 17, 2009. READ MORE
Can’t seem to stay up to date? Let us do some of the work.
We’ve put together a bibliography of November’s (plus or minus a few weeks) new fire science publications related to Alaska and the boreal forest. Download a simple bibliography or an annotated version, both in a pdf format including URLs for each reference. Just want the highlights? We showcased a few of our “Top Picks” below.
November 2011 Fire Publications – Bibliography (pdf)
November 2011 Fire Publications – Annotated Bibliography (pdf)
Our “Top Picks”
Werth, Paul A.; Potter, Brian E.; Clements, Craig B.; Finney, Mark A.; Goodrick, Scott L.; Alexander, Martin E.; Cruz, Miguel G.; Forthofer, Jason A.; McAllister, Sara S. 2011. Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-854. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 144 p.