Animated map showing fire probability and actual fires from 1995-2021. Produced by Joe Smith with RAP.
Science in Practice
This paper extends fire probability work published by Joe Smith from analysis into how practitioners can use this information to make decisions for the fire season. The paper discusses rangeland fire trends revealed by Smith’s work, illustrates how Smith’s fire-prediction maps can be used by land managers to better prepare for rangeland fire, and provides current examples of how fire managers are shifting their focus regarding rangeland fuels management.Combined, this research provides new insights into how managers can enhance their ability to put the right actions in the right places at the right times so they can reduce the risk of and impacts from large and severe wildfires in rangelands.
Resources & Links
Read the associated paper: "Where there’s smoke, there’s fuel: dynamic vegetation data improve predictions of wildfire hazard in the Great Basin" here.
Read an Ask an Expert interview with the researchers here.
Jeremy D. Maestas, Joseph T. Smith, Brady W. Allred, David E. Naugle, Matthew O. Jones, Casey O’Connor, Chad S. Boyd, Kirk W. Davies, Michele R. Crist, Andrew C. Olsen, “Using Dynamic, Fuels-Based Fire Probability Maps to Reduce Large Wildfires in the Great Basin” Rangeland Ecology & Management, 2022, ISSN 1550-7424.
Spatial and temporal dynamics of rangeland fuels is a primary factor driving large wildfires. Yet, detailed information capturing variation in fine fuels has largely been missing from rangeland fire planning and fuels management. New fuels-based maps of Great Basin rangeland fire probability help bridge this gap by coupling dynamic vegetation cover and production data from the Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP) with weather and climate data to provide annual forecasts of the relative probability of large wildfire.
In this paper, we review these new fuels-based maps and discuss implications for pre-fire planning, preparedness, and strategic fuels management. Examining patterns of fire probability through time reveals high spatial and temporal variation in risk of large wildfires across the Great Basin. Certain areas are chronically impacted with high fire probability most years, while others have more sporadic or low probability of large fire annually.
Maps confirm previous research that the recent increase in large fire risk in the region is highly associated with invasive annual grasses, but total aboveground herbaceous production (including perennials) continues to be a primary predictor of fire probability.
Fuels-based fire probability maps can be used alongside existing data sources and prioritization frameworks by fire and fuels managers to inform questions of 1) what kind of fire year might this be, 2) where large fires most likely to occur given an ignition, and 3) where resources should be focused.
We provide examples of how maps can be used to improve pre-fire preparedness and planning to enhance suppression, facilitate annual targeting of fine fuels reductions, and support land use planning for implementation of landscape-scale fuels management. Proactively incorporating this new information into rangeland fire and fuels management can help address altered fire regimes threatening the region’s wildlife and working lands.