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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Final WFM RD&A Mentee for the 2013 Fire Season

Mark Pater, Fire Ecologist, with the BLM in Gila Arizona, worked with the RDA from Aug. 26th- Sept. 7th as our final 2 week mentee for fire season 2013.  Mark is a Geospatial Analyst (GSAN) and Strategic Operational Planner (SOPL).  He provided Short Term and Near Term Fire Behavior analysis and FSPro analysis to 3 fires; Little Elk and Coxey in the Eastern Great Basin and Knife Lake in the Eastern Geographic  Area.  Mark also provided us with a thorough review of some of our internal products and the Rocky Mountain Center website.  He also helped us prepare for a new release of WFDSS by testing the new functionality in the training environment prior to release on the production site.  Mark was very helpful, enthusiastic, and great to work with.  He is an excellent supporter and proponent of WFDSS.  We look forward to working with Mark again in the future.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mentee Dana Cohen Worked at Decision Support Center

Dana Cohen, smiling after a hard day's work at the DSC

Dana Cohen, Fire Management Specialist at the National Key Deer Refuge in Florida, worked with the RD&A as a mentee from August 12-27th.  She is a GSAN and LTAN(t).  Dana was able to work with us in person by helping staff a Decision Support Center (DSC) that was established in Boise, Idaho.  The DSC supported the Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) group working in support of the numerous fires in the Eastern Great Basin.  Along with other staff members, Dana  provided analysis support to individual fires and provided Values Inventory reports and other spatial analysis to the MAC group.  The center supported numerous fires in the two-week time period.  It was a pleasure having Dana work with the Decision Support group in Boise.  She was motivated, helpful, and displayed initiative. Thanks, Dana!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Jon Rieck Works with the RD&A as a Mentee

Jon Rieck, away from his laptop.
WFM RD&A Mentee Program

Jon Rieck, a scientist with the RMRS Missoula Forestry Sciences Lab, worked with the Wildland Fire Management RD&A for a 2 week mentee assignment July 29th- August 10th.  Jon is a qualified GSAN, BHAV, and FEMO.  He supported one incident over several days in the Northwest Geographic area while working for the RD&A (the Green Ridge fire on the Deschutes National Forest).  He provided FSPro and Near Term Behavior analysis, of which both were utilized in the incident's published decision content.  Jon reviewed the Rocky Mountain Center website and suggested changes to improve the site.  He also worked on a project that compared potential future weather forecasts with current forecasts for fire behavior modeling in the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS).  We appreciate Jon's interest, enthusiasm, and willingness to dive deep into an important project for which very little research or validation has been conducted thus far.  Thank you, Jo--we look forward to working with you in the future.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Positive Feedback for Spatial Fire Management Plans in WFDSS

To WFM RD&A-- I like it...very nice way to spatially articulate a Forest Plan. Because we had the time we drew a big enough Planning areas so we could TEST our stuff. We didn't go into MAPs but from what was coming up in Strategic Objectives and Management requirements, it looked good. No need to grab the Forest Plan and go surfing anymore whistling "now what does the forest plan say again???"
It is all right there at your finger tips.  And feedback from the Line Officer was positive as well. In short, I like it.   

Feedback from Mike Goicoechea, Forest Fire Management Officer on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Montana (R1)

Monday, August 12, 2013

WFM RD&A Welcomes detailer Trevor Miller

Trevor Miller, a fuels technician on the Deschutes National Forest, has joined the Wildland Fire Management RD&A for a 5-week virtual detail.  He started August 5th and will continue through September 7th.  Trevor previously worked with the RD&A as a mentee in 2011 and is now a qualified Long Term Analyst (LTAN).  As a detailer, he will function as a member of the RD&A staff, completing the detail virtually from his home duty station in Sisters, OR and traveling to support fires as needed.  He will assist the RD&A by providing decision and fire behavior support to incidents during a busy part of fire season in the west.  Trevor will also work on current on-going projects with RD&A staff.  Welcome Trevor!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

RD&A uses Detailers to Accomplish Fuels Work

Annie Benoit
Two long duration detailers have been brought on board to assist the Wildland Fire Management RD&A with fuels related work.  Annie Benoit, a Fuels Technician on the Idaho City Ranger District, Boise National Forest has been working for the RD&A since January 2013.  As a Fuels Technician she writes and reviews burn plans, identifies and implements fuels treatments, and manages GIS and monitoring databases. Annie functions as an ICT4 and RXB2 on forest, as well as a SITL (t) on a Great Basin type II team. She also supports the Great Basin Training Unit teaching several classes each year. While working for the RD&A, Annie assists Kim Ernstrom with Fire Regime Condition Class (FRCC) and Landfire related projects, including consolidating and re-working the helpdesk database. She is also testing and reviewing beta versions of online training materials, developing training modules to be included in S-390/Rx-341, and researching and summarizing various planning efforts. Annie's detail will continue through September.

Liz Struhar

Liz Struhar, Fire Planning Specialist for the National Park Service Southeast Region, began her detail with the RD&A July 1st. As a planning specialist she supports parks with Fire Management Plan revisions, contracts, Wilderness Minimum Requirements Analyses and Environmental Compliance needs. She also works with budget allocation models and provides some wildfire decision support assistance to parks.  Liz will work for the RD&A through August.  She will be working virtually out of Atlanta for the majority of her detail, but worked from our offices in Boise for two weeks in July. Liz will be working on the WFM RD&A Fuels Resource Portal (a website) and the Fuels Treatment Effectiveness project. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Mentee in the WFM RD&A Program

We are still catching up on posting our recent mentee profiles. Anne Birkholz, a fire planner for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, worked with us for a 2-week mentee assignment July 1st- 13th.  Anne is a qualified Geospatial Analyst (GSAN) and Geographic Information System Specialist trainee (GISSt).  She had an opportunity to build upon her already strong skill set with regards to WFDSS, decision-making and fire behavior analysis. She reviewed a draft NPS Line Officer Guide and provided recommendations for changes to both content and structure, reviewed the Rocky Mountain Center's website and suggested changes to improve the site's visibility to the fire management community as well as ways to increase its usefulness, and also reviewed WFDSS training videos and made suggestions for additions, changes and improvements.  Anne assisted with initial work on an RD&A Common Operating Picture (COP).  Her eye for critical detail was a tremendous asset, and her contributions to each individual project will go a long way in improving RD&A products and services.  Anne also provided analysis support for the West Fire located within the El Malpais National Monument in western New Mexico. Thanks, Anne, for all your detail-oriented work!

Sara Savage Participates in our Mentee Program

WFM RD&A Mentee Program

Sara Savage, a Fuels Specialist on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, worked with the Wildland Fire Management RD&A for a 2 week mentee assignment July 15th- 27th.  Sara is a qualified Geospatial Analyst (GSAN) and Long Term Analyst trainee (LTANt).  Sara supported 6 fires in 3 geographic areas (Northern Rockies and Western & Eastern Great Basin) while working for the RD&A: Pine Creek, Gold Pan, Wieland, Bear Lake, Ridge, and Crescendo.  She provided FSPro, Near Term, and Short Term analysis products.  Sara reviewed the Rocky Mountain Center's website and suggested changes to improve the site's visibility to the fire management community as well as ways to increase its usefulness.  She also provided feedback/review of the Forest Service Line Officer Desk Reference for Fire Program Management and began working on an FSPro validation project.  She did a great job and we enjoyed working with her...thanks, Sara!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

WFM RD&A Mentee Brian Maier Completes his assignment

WFM RD&A Mentee Program

Photo of Brian Maier
Brian Maier, a Forest Service Sub-Regional Fire Analyst for Region 6 worked with the Wildland Fire Management RD&A for a 2 week mentee assignment June 17th-29th.  Brian is a qualified Geospatial Analyst (GSAN) and Long Term Analyst Trainee (LTANt).  While working with us Brian provided fire behavior support to the East Peak and East Fork fires in the Rocky Mountain area.  He also assisted with multiple projects including:  a comparison of potential future weather forecasts with current forecasts for fire behavior modeling in the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS), tracking fires to be included and excluded in model validation, and review of the Rocky Mountain Center Website.  He also made several suggestions on items that may improve WFDSS now and in the future. Brian was a valuable addition to the WFM RD&A program and his works and efforts were highly valued.

Monday, June 10, 2013

2013 Forest Service Line Officer Guide for Fire Management is available

2013 Forest Service Line Officer Guide Update

The 2013 Forest Service "Line Officer Desk Reference Guide for Fire Management" has been updated and is ready for use.  Morgan Pence and Tami Parkinson have been working with the National Line Officer Team to maintain and update the Reference Guide as policies and guidance change. The guide provides a "one stop approach" for reference documents related to fire management, developed to assist line officers who have fire management responsibilities. The Guide includes sections on pre-season preparedness, incident management and oversight, post-fire responsibilities and fuels management.  There is no new information introduced within the Guide, instead it summarizes and references updated directives, policy and guidance.  It can be found at: 
Feedback can be emailed to:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

WFM RD&A welcomes detailer Todd Rankin

WFM RD&A welcomes detailer Todd Rankin
Todd Rankin, a National Park Service Fuels Specialist/Assistant Fire Management Officer at Olympic National Park will be working with the Wildland Fire Management RD&A this summer in a 60 day virtual detail beginning June 10th.  Todd is a qualified Fire Behavior Analyst, Long Term Analyst, and Strategic Operational Planner.  As a detailer he will function as a member of the RD&A staff, completing the detail virtually from his home duty station and traveling to support fire incidents as needed.  He will assist the RD&A by providing decision and fire behavior analysis support to incidents utilizing the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS).  Todd will also work on a number of current on-going projects with RD&A staff.   Todd's skills will add to our analysis and help capacity during the summer months.  Welcome Todd!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Many WFM RD&A Staff Participate in Teaching S-495

S-495, Geospatial Fire Analysis, Interpretation, and Application is a course that teaches future Long-Term Analysts (LTANs) the concepts of weather retrieval and analysis, critiquing of geospatial data, and how to complete and interpret fire behavior analyses. The class began in November of 2012 with eight online units accessed through the University of Idaho and the National Interagency Fuels Technology Transfer (NIFTT). After students complete the online work, they attend the classroom portion to complete the final exam and receive course completion certificates. This year, the course was taught from both the National Advanced Fire Resource Institute (NAFRI) in Tucson, Arizona and the Northern Rockies Training Center (NRTC) with video-teleconference and GoToMeeting links that provided students in both locations with the same content. WFM RD&A staff that participated in development and delivery of course content were Tonja Opperman (Co-Steering Committee Chair), Erin Noonan-Wright (Instructor), Morgan Pence (Instructor), Diane Rau (Instructor), and Dan Mindar (Instructor). All of the online content is available for self-paced learning at under the Training menu. Watch for announcements for the next S-495 offering in the late summer of 2014.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Attendance at the Fire and Fuels Conference

February 25—Lead Fire Application Specialist Tami Parkinson and Fire Technology Transfer Specialist Diane Rau served on the conference program committee with retired WFM RD&A Program Director, Tom Zimmerman. A staffed booth provided opportunities to interact with participants and offered information about the group’s role in coordinating and fostering science application in wildland fire. Fire Application Specialists Dan Mindar and Erin Noonan-Wright coordinated a workshop on advanced fire behavior analysis and lessons learned. Diane also moderated a plenary session on changes in the fire environment, while Erin presented a concurrent session on the effectiveness and longevity of fuels treatments in California’s coniferous forests.

How the WFM RD&A Fits into the Larger Picture

The WFM RD&A is comprised of individuals funded cooperatively by both the Department of Interior and the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS). In the RMRS, the WFM RD&A falls under the Science Application and Integration (SA&I) staff, whose primary focus is science delivery and knowledge exchange, connecting RMRS scientists and researchers with managers in the field, and helping to put science into practice and harvest information about science needs from the land management community. There are four DOI postions funded through the Office Of Wildland Fire, with roles and duties the same as the RMRS staff, with some additional attention provided to DOI fire managers, field practitioners and interagency research efforts. Two focused research development and application (RD&A) groups, funded by the USFS WO, are housed within SA&I, employing 20+ technology transfer specialists, resource specialists and social scientists. The Wildland Fire Management RD&A manages decision support tools and serves as the flagship technology transfer center for scientists and managers in the wildland fire community. This unit is led by Tim Sexton, following the retirement of Tom Zimmerman last year. Tim supervises all positions in the WFM RD&A, including those funded by DOI and the Office of Wildland Fire. The Human Factors and Risk Management RD&A, led by Jim Saveland, helps the Forest Service develop a safety culture that is highly reliable and resilient; one where employees take a proactive and systematic approach to managing risk.

High-tech Collaboration to Analyze Weather and Air Quality Data

February 18—The Rocky Mountain Center (RMC) for Fire-Weather Intelligence (, a unit of the RMRS Wildland Fire Management Research Development and Application program (, has joined forces with the WO Division of Wildlife, Fish, Water, Air and Rare Plants (WFWARP) in a unique long-term partnership that involves complex analysis of weather & air quality data using Forest Service supercomputers. WFM RD&A and RMC’s Air Resource Specialist Ned Nikolov, Fort Collins, and Bret Anderson of WFWARP signed a formal agreement to collaborate on atmospheric modeling projects aimed to enhance the understanding of impacts by smoke, fire, and climate on air quality and ecosystem health. Areas of mutual interest include downscaling of forecast and observed meteorological fields to improve real-time fire behavior simulations and smoke dispersion, effect of smoke emissions on tropospheric ozone and visibility, and impact of future climatic changes on regional fire potential and air quality. The new partnership was kicked off with the purchase of a new supercomputer that was successfully integrated into the RMC existing infrastructure. Ned and Bret are currently assisting litigation efforts that call for an air-quality assessment based on 3-D simulations of weather, atmospheric chemistry, and pollution transport.

WFM RD&A Helps Evaluate Fuels Treatment Decision Support

February 11—The RMRS Wildland Fire Management Research, Development and Application program is working in conjunction with the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) to help organize and facilitate twelve workshops nationwide to gather user feedback on the Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS). Initiated in 2007 by the JFSP and the National Interagency Fuels Coordination Group, IFTDSS is a web-based system designed to provide fire and fuels managers with a single software solution to manage the many data types, software applications and tools available for fuels treatment planning.
The evaluation will provide a thorough and objective assessment of IFTDSS to agency and department leaders for their consideration regarding operational deployment. A managing partner and hosting support are needed for continued operation of IFTDSS after FY2013. The Wildland Fire Management staff will coordinate the user workshops to help ensure all regions of the country and agencies are represented, and act as liaison between JFSP, Sonoma Technology (developers of IFTDSS), and the Software Engineering Institute. Evaluation results from the workshops will be delivered on July 1, 2013 in a final report. For more information, contact Lead Fire Application Specialist Kim Ernstrom at 208-387-5257.

WFDSS Awarded

January 7—The development and application of the Wildland Fire Decision and Support System (WFDSS) has received the 2013 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. WFDSS was developed by the RMRS Wildland Fire Management Research, Development and Application (RD&A) program and other RMRS scientists and collaborators. This award, presented annually by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC), recognizes lab employees who have accomplished outstanding work in technology transfer.
WFDSS, an initiative led by the Forest Service, with support from the Department of Interior, assists fire managers and analysts in making strategic and tactical decisions for wildland fires. It integrates several fire modeling software applications used to manage fire incidents into a single, one-stop-shopping web-based system, accessing high performance computers for modeling and streamlining the sharing of analyses and incident decisions across all levels of management. The Wildland Fire Management RD&A and cooperators have worked extensively to train and educate more than 8,000 users in WFDSS since 2009. The RD&A is led by Tim Sexton and affiliated with the RMRS Science Application and Integration program.
The award will be presented during a ceremony on April 25 at the FLC national meeting in Westminster, Colorado. Learn more about WFDSS at, and

Making Sense of Wildland Fire Expenditures

December 17—Wildland fire expenditures increased in Fiscal Year 2012 as compared to the prior year. At the request of the Washington Office, the Wildland Fire Management RD&A gathered weather and fire data for the past two years to determine to what extent environmental factors may have contributed to the cost difference. Climate, weather, fire danger, distance to communities, wildland fire acreage and duration and additional factors were examined. A wide variety of data sources were utilized and the Wildland Fire Decision Support System proved to be a particularly valuable source for obtaining accurate federal wildland fire statistics on a nationwide scale.

Wildland Fire RD&A Analyzes Fire and Weather Data--December 17
Human behavior and decision making were not analyzed but results showed that the 2012 fire season saw significantly more burned acres, greater impacts to the urban interface and weather conditions that were hotter and drier than the 2011 season. In lieu of a white paper, the results were distributed to the Washington Office through a web page that contained an illustrative infographic and links to a graphical presentation and further documentation. Learn more at:

Developing Mobile Technologies

December 3—We are  testing and developing mobile applications that benefit fire managers. Rob Seli, Mitch Burgard, and Marlena Hovorka developed ‘WFDSS Lite,’ a version of the cloud-based Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) used by managers for fire decision-making. WFDSS Lite allows Agency administrators a quick way to view key components of the fire decision, and update the periodic assessment or approve a decision from a mobile device. The Lite application was developed for utilization on all devices and is not specific to an operating system. This functionality allows managers increased mobility while keeping informed and approving decisions throughout the fire season.
Tami Parkinson is involved in a partnership with the Mobile Technologies Integration group to test iPads for more broad fire and aviation management applications. Phase 1, completed in FY2012, shows that the iPad doesn’t fully replace the laptop, but is nevertheless a viable tool for fire managers. iPad benefits include: increased mobility, field worthiness, quick referencing and note taking. Limitations are: less ability to fully utilize map programs, less Google Earth functionality, and an inability to run PC-based fire behavior programs and applications. In response to the feedback generated from this study, the Forest Service Chief Information Office is initiating development of an application to support fire management, for beta testing during the 2013 summer field season.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Getting Girls Interested in Fire Management Careers

October 20--Tonja Opperman was invited to the 2012 Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues “Women in Science Conference” in Riverton, Wyoming that aims to teach teen girls about careers in science, as many teen girls in rural Wyoming do not have access to female role models in science careers. Tonja developed a curriculum to teach the girls about fire weather, fire behavior, and fire ecology and helped them understand what types of jobs and career paths are available in fire management. The students went outside for a hands-on workshop using belt weather kits and learned that sharpening chainsaws was something they, too, could master. Two workshops were taught with 20 girls in each one.

iPads on the Fireline

October 1--According to a recent KPAX News story, most of us think of iPads as a way to watch movies, entertain family or play games. But some firefighting teams are using the devices in a Forest Service pilot project. This past summer, on three major fires in Montana, crews used the 3G-wireless-equipped iPads on fire lines and in camp, shooting videos and photos, creating detailed maps and designing response plans, enabled by an app written by a team member. Pictures map locations set by GPS, giving managers a first-hand look at what crews are facing. The videos allow fire teams to describe the type of timber and terrain at different points on the fire, explain what fuels could catch fire, and how the blaze is spreading on the ground. The iPads can also be used to help assess structure damage and develop rehabilitation plans, order supplies and pay firefighters.

Friday, March 1, 2013

RD&A Staff Attend 4th Fire and Fuels Conference

Wildland Fire management Research, Development, & Application (WFM-RD&A) staff participated in the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) 4th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference - At the Crossroads: Looking Toward the Future in a Changing Environment in Raleigh, North Carolina.  WFM-RD&A employees Tami Parkinson and Diane Rau served on the conference program committee with WFM-RD&A alums Tom Zimmerman and Laurie Kurth to develop a wide-ranging agenda.  A WFM RD&A booth was staffed which provided opportunities to interact with participants and provide information about the group's role in coordinating and fostering science application in wildland fire.  They used a touch-screen display to feature various aspects of the WFM RD&A.  Dan MindarErin Noonan-Wright, and Laurie Kurth coordinated a workshop on advanced fire behavior analysis and lessons learned.  Diane Rau moderated a plenary session in which Program Manager Tim Sexton participated in discussing the changes in the fire environment. Ms. Noonan-Wright also presented a concurrent session regarding the effectiveness and longevity of fuels treatments in coniferous forests in California.  The conference provided a great opportunity to engage practitioners and scientists in the wildland fire community, and raise awareness of the role of WFM-RD&A supporting research, fire managers and decision makers.