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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.