Field Trip Recap: Experimental wind tunnel tour for wildland fire applications
Written by Amanda Mahaffey, Photos by Amanda Mahaffey
(Don’t miss the videos of the tour and wind tunnel experiment linked on our event page!)
On a fair September afternoon, NAFSE held its first-ever indoor field trip. We were hosted by Dr. Albert Simeoni and numerous colleagues and graduate students at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute fire lab for a full afternoon of lab-based fire experiments that lead to wildland fire applications. A great group of scientists and fire managers participated and interacted with each other over lunch and throughout the tour.
To set the stage, Dr. Simeoni outlined the long history of fire research at WPI, which houses the one of the oldest collections of fire protection research in the country. Since its founding in 1865, WPI has strived to educate aspiring professional engineers and scientists through hands-on practice and applied instruction. Today, Dr. Simeoni's work is part of the Strategic Environmental Research and Developmen Program (SERDP) in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and several universities. NAFSE's webinar series, "Fine Scale, Big Scale: Wildland Fire Dynamics Research for Informed Management," highlights the work of these project collaborators who seek to understand, quantify, and predict wildland fire behavior based on multiple scales of research.
The NAFSE field trip to WPI highlighted the laboratory-scale experiments and their application to real-life wildland fire conundrums. How fast does fire burn through different fine fuel types? What if the wind is blowing? How can we predict fire behavior in pitch pine-scrub oak forest ecosystems under different conditions? How are fuel cans and chainsaws designed for safe transportation and use by wildland firefighters? What happens when fuels burn on open water?
During this field trip, the group visited the Combustions Lab, observed a sample run in the fire propagation apparatus, and watched fire spread in the wind tunnel. Thanks to the background talks, these seemingly simple experiments took on new meaning. The field trip participants gained a new appreciation for the challenges - and successes - in quantifying fire behavior. Throughout the afternoon, the focus was not only on the technical details of the experiments themselves, but how they will be translated to wildland fire situations. Some of these experiments are still in their early stages, but the SERDP team and WPI researchers hope to have applicable answers to some of these questions in the next few years. In the meantime, the fire manager community will help keep the research real by continually raising new and important questions for these fire protection engineers.
See our event page for videos of each speaker on the field trip!
In mid-April, Tom Gerber was invited by NAFSE to travel to Tall Timbers Research Station located in Tallahassee, Florida as an ambassador for NAFSE representing fire managers in the Northeast during the Prescribed Fire Consortium annual week of fireline experimentation on the property. Although Tom is a community representative for NAFSE representing the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, he travelled to Tall Timbers Prescribed Fire Consortium meeting/field work week as a New Jersey cranberry farmer and land manager as well. These perspectives were important in the mix of folks who participated in observing and conducting the work throughout the week. Tom answered a few questions after being down at Tall Timbers to observe the research, collaborations, public interactions, and ecosystem challenges presented by long-leaf pine prescribed fire.
What was it like to finally visit the Tall Timbers Research Station, a stronghold of prescribed fire research and history?
It was interesting to see the similarities with New Jersey with the long history of prescribed fire in the region, fire is everything there! It is essentially the other side of the greater pine ecosystem with NJ being towards the northern end. People were super, the old plantation farm house was beautiful. Tallahassee is 25 minutes from Tall Timbers and they have limited growth and development in the area, similar to the Pinelands Management Area.
What is the goal of the Prescribed Fire Consortium research group you were visiting there?
This group of scientists got together to fill in the gaps in prescribed fire science. Most wildland fire science is concerned with wildfires, rather than prescribed fires. This group is looking at modeling tools that work for prescribed fires as well as the unique fire effects we get from prescribed fires.
What was your primary goal for visiting during this week?
I wanted to see what was going on down there and see if NJ and the North Atlantic region could do similar things. I was going as a representative of fire managers in the Northeast, so I wanted to compare what we do and see the significance of annual burning that is common there.
What was your favorite moment of the trip?
My favorite moment was meeting Paul, an old timer land manager on the tree plantation who studied under Neal as a teen (from the Stoddard-Neal method of ecological forestry). He had good local knowledge.
Who did you most identify with and why?
I most identified with Wayne Taylor, a land manager at Tall Timbers. He overseas 100,000 acres of forest and is the landscape fire team coordinator. He deals with smoke management, and different management goals for different blocks. They have a lot of equipment and spend almost $20,000 a year on fuel to conduct prescribed fires.
What was something brand new that you learned?
Most things I learned re-affirmed the institutional knowledge we have in NJ at the upper range of the pines. I learned that the longleaf needles have double the flame length of our pitch pine needles.
What is your biggest take home message or advice for managers in the Northeast based on your experience in Tall Timbers?
My biggest take home is that we need to keep promoting and educating the public on the importance of prescribed fire in the North Atlantic region.
Thank you Mike Gallagher and Nick Skowronski for helping with this interview.
Fine Scale, Big Scale: Wildland Fire Dynamics Research for Informed Management
NAFSE is proud to present our Spring/Summer webinar series on research funded by the Department of Defense Strategic Research and Development Program, the Joint Fire Science program, and the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station. This series covers all aspects of fire behavior and all scales of measurement. The overarching idea is to improve on fire spread and behavior models from 1970s empirical models using physics-based measurements. This requires studying all scales of fire behavior with different fuels and instrumentation (see graphic below). Going from the small laboratory experiments to the operational field observations, this study tries to understand what generalizations for fire behavior can be derived across all scales and types of measurement; and also what applies at one scale, but not others. To see all of the series webinars go to our webpage on the event. Check out all of the excellent resources there that help explain and round out the research from all angles.
Looking for videos and .pdfs of presentations and posters? Click here.
Igniting Exchange was the biggest joint initiative between the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange and the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact to date. Every year, the Compact holds a Winter Awareness Meeting with a range of speakers and topics in wildfire suppression and fire management. This year, however, NAFSE was able to partner with the Compact and provide over 30 speakers with a focus on fire science and management needs in the North Atlantic region. Approximately 220 people signed-up for the meeting. Planning led by Amanda Mahaffey of NAFSE and Tom Parent of the Compact pulled in all aspects of both organizations, leveraging the talents of each. The NAFSE Community Reps and the Compact Working Teams were also integral to planning a true partners event.
The meeting week began with several pre-meetings of groups utilizing Igniting Exchange to advance fire management in the Northeast. On Monday, the Northeast Regional Strategy Committee (NE RSC) for the Cohesive Strategy met face to face. It was a great kickoff to the narrative that we hoped would continue for the rest of the week. The discussion touched on updating wildfire risk assessments, improving prescribed fire coordination and resource availability between states, and increasing engagement with local firefighters.
On Tuesday morning, the Compact held its working team meetings, and NAFSE leaders participated in the Fire Science Working Team meeting. The Fire Science Working Team discussed the feasibility of a regional prescribed fire council and the adoption of Compact-wide technology.
On Tuesday afternoon, the NAFSE Leadership Team hosted our annual face-to-face meeting with our Community Representatives. The Community Reps are tasked with keeping the Leadership Team up to date on current happenings throughout the region as well as topics of interest in their communities. Our renewal proposal was the biggest topic on the agenda. Our Reps had comments on the proposal as well as potential topics to add, such as: pollinator interactions with prescribed fire, interactions between invasives and prescribed fire, and the social and ecological issues of reintroducing fire on the landscape. We had a productive conversation with our guest Jack McGowan-Stinski of the Lake States Fire Science Consortium centered around students and incorporating more activities to involve interested universities and colleges across our region. For example, NAFSE could propose guest lectures to get students, departments and deans interested in promoting more wildland fire science courses into their programs. This conversation was enhanced by the presence of numerous students sponsored to come to Igniting Exchange, several of whom are also part of our Virtual Fire Science Lab group. Each student shared his or her interests, and in response, Community Reps chimed in with ideas or contacts for the students to pursue. We discussed providing mentor connections for the students within our NAFSE network. This meeting provided us up to date topics of interest and concerns and were directly incorporated in our renewal proposal.
Community representative meeting of the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange (top). Student discussion portion of the meeting (bottom).
On Wednesday, the audience was introduced to the co-chairs for the day: one member of the Compact and one member of NAFSE’s leadership team. The idea of daily co-chairs was important in representing the voices of both scientists and managers. The morning reports from the Compact working groups on Wednesday gave an excellent overview of what managers are thinking about and dealing with on a daily basis, and how the Compact aids them in their work. Before lunch, we were treated to the keynote speaker provided by the Compact, David Cooper, a retired Navy SEAL who gave an inspiring speech on behavior-driven leadership. Central themes in his talk included the importance of honesty from your group as well as the ability to take criticism and improve your leadership skills.
Opening remarks by Tom Parent (left). David Cooper, keynote speaker (right).
After lunch, we arrived at the heart of the program, which was organized by soliciting speakers on focused topics and providing a logical progression in each session. The first session was on the Gatlinburg fires and began with Steve Norman, who put the Gatlinburg fire in the regional context and put the 2016 fire season into context with other historical fire seasons. Next up was Henri Grissino-Mayer out the of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, who took us on a virtual trip of the progression of the Gatlinburg fire, from the week leading up to the fire, the lightning-fast blowup, and after-fire reactions from all perspectives. Finally, we had Matt Lovitt out of the Pigeon Forge Fire Department give his perspective of the operations of the fire and some of the knowledge gaps and miscommunication that occurred. This session provided a great combination of the larger picture of the fire season, the week leading up to the event, and in-the-moment decisions that had to be made with the information at hand.
Our next session focused on smoke models and fire weather. First, Mike Kiefer started off with an overview of smoke models and how they work. (NAFSE also has a research brief based on the smoke model review paper that Mike referred to in his talk). Although these models can get quite technical, Mike was able to distill the models down, explaining the main differences between them and what they are best used for. This served as a great lead-in to Joel Carlson’s real-life uses of the smoke models that Mike had just described. Joel provided a great perspective of someone that uses science-based tools on a regular basis to plan prescribed fires. Finally, Eric Evenson of the National Weather Service gave us a great overview of the fire weather information available online for our region. Eric also introduced us to the new website that the fire science working group has put together for the Compact which incorporates all of the Northeast focused fire weather websites into one website.
Once the afternoon session was concluded, attendees perused the posters, discussed the results with the authors, and checked out numerous high-tech vendors in the back of the room. We finished off the evening with the banquet where the Compact gave out several yearly awards, the Karl Kenyon gadget hour was conducted and judged with much mirth, and the NAFSE leadership team presented Compact director, Tom Parent with a thank-you gift of a NAFSE T-shirt. Several people noted that many attendees stayed an exceptionally long time at the banquet talking and getting to know each other rather than leaving for other venues.
On Thursday, after breakfast, the group was asked to attend the session of their choice. New Jersey’s Pinelands: A Fire Science and Management Playground was offered in the main meeting room downstairs, while the Technology Tools session took place upstairs. Highlights from upstairs included Alex Entrup of Northeast Forest & Fire Management, LLC sporting his handy iPad holder field setup with apps that he uses daily, and Bob Kremens of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute explaining the physics of fire and how you measure it in an engaging and understandable manner. Presenters were encouraged to ‘bring it home’ to their audience and explain how their technology can help managers with decision-making and day-to-day operations.
The New Jersey session downstairs was equally information-packed with Ken Clark, Mike Gallagher, and Nick Skowronski of the USDA Forest Service detailing some of the work that has come out of over ten years of focused research on fire, carbon flux, and remote sensing in the pinelands of New Jersey. Strong partnerships between state, federal and non-profit organizations have been key to the success of this research. The three talks offered at Igniting Exchange highlighted the latest in the results of this collaborative atmosphere.
The second dual morning sessions were flash talks and a session on fire, fuels and silvicultural tools. The flash talk session was so varied and interesting it is difficult to summarize here; however, one highlight included Jack McGowan-Stinski’s talk on growing season burns and breaking down some of the long-held beliefs that surround the exclusion of these burns. Our three student presenters, Emily Dolhansky, Noémie Gonzalez, and Casey Olechnowicz all gave great presentations about their current projects with thought provoking question-and-answer sessions after each. Participants appreciated the diversity of topics, but perhaps more significantly, the presentations exposed the audience to research and management questions that still need to be answered.
Downstairs the discussion focused on the interactions of mechanical treatments and prescribed fire. The first speaker, Jake McCumber, is charged with balancing the Army’s needs for training grounds with rare species habitat needs and fire safety. He achieves these goals through partnerships and the integration of silvicultural tools with fire. Next, Jack McGowan-Stinski of the Lake States Fire Science Consortium shared an approach to invasive species controls by blending fire ecology and prescribed fire, with an emphasis on using the seasonality of the species and fire effects to guide decision-making. Finally, Helen Mills Poulos from Wesleyan University shared lessons from a research project on the effects of mowing and prescribed fire in rare coastal sandplain grasslands, emphasizing the influence of human values in determining restoration goals.
Throughout Igniting Exchange, our hardy lunches and sweet-filled breaks did not disappoint. These times of socialization provided an opportunity for new partnerships to form and new contacts to be made. For example, during lunch on Thursday, NAFSE and Compact leaders met with Jon Regosin and Caren Caljouw from MassWildlife and Neil Gifford from the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission to discuss how we could team up for a new multi-state project establishing a network of treatment sites for pollinators in xeric habitats in the Northeast. Participants also had the opportunity to catch up with speakers and dive deeper into discussions about issues in fire science and management during our breaks.
Pollinator group discussing partnerships (left). Breaks with vendors, posters, and discussion (right).
The afternoon sessions were once again held in the main downstairs room to share the latest information on spatial tools in fire management. Greg Dillon showed us the different elements that make up a good wildland fire risk assessment and stressed the importance of local involvement. Chris “Fern” Ferner showed us the latest and greatest in operational GIS capabilities such as the Collector tool for the audience to check out, and Danny Lee gave us perspective on how all this spatial data is gathered and used for fire science as well as other relevant disturbances such as insect kills and blowdowns.
Finally, in our last session, consultant Lloyd Irland, Matt Carroll of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Tom Parent of the Compact asked questions about how our current environment stacks up to the extreme events of the past and how prepared we might be for those events now. Brent Ruby gave the audience an idea of how large fires can affect firefighter physiology and how new technology is coming out to help prevent heat exhaustion-related injuries. The themes explored in this session echoed back to the qualities of behavior-driven leaders outlined by the keynote speaker.
At the conclusion of the meeting, co-chair of the day Erin Lane noted that the meeting focused quite a bit around tools, and the following points were necessary to the proper use of technology tools in wildland fire:
1. Stakeholder involvement from the development
2. Data-driven, evidence-based science as the foundation for management.
3. Applicability to the user. If a tool isn’t applicable—it’s not much of a tool.
Closing comments by Erin Lane also summarized the overall feel of the event and how ideas and relationships made at this meeting can serve as the beginning to long-term progress in our region. Erin concluded by pointing out the actions that will help us continue the exchange of ideas.
1. Connect. We made connections here, so now we must follow-up! Don’t wait. Solidify connections with a phone call or email. Talk again and make plans.
2. Ask. Next time you have the chance, ask yourself- what’s the science behind this? What’s the applicability of this science? We began with talks focusing on basic science and moved towards more applied science and risk assessments that can lead to on-the-ground changes. Keep asking the questions and before you know it, we will have integrated science and management.
3. Seek. Find more ways to interact. Look for the science, and take the opportunity to collaborate. Join a field trip, watch a webinar, reach out to a manager or researchers. Get involved and stay involved.
This meeting was meant to ignite exchange. Meeting each other, making that first step, and putting ourselves out there to be questioned and criticized by each other is something that needed to happen. Exposure was a driving goal for this meeting, and we do feel that more scientists and managers in our region are aware of ‘what’s out there’. However, there is much more work to do, and highlighting projects that have successfully incorporated scientists and managers already, with both parties contributing to the presentation and discussion, seems to be a logical next step. We have already read through many of the evaluation comments and are already thinking of new and better ways to continue our partnership and improve our coordination efforts.
Working with the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact was a breeze and the training and technology working teams and Tom Parent were the best partners we could hope for. NAFSE is honored to be a part of the Compact, and we don’t take it for granted. This meeting was part of a dream seeded several years ago. The North Atlantic doesn’t have the attention of the nation when it comes to fires, but we have the people: good, hard-working, experienced people who are managing lands and researching solutions. Thanks again everyone who attended, helped, and made this a successful event.
By Amanda Mahaffey
Photos by Amanda Mahaffey
On October 17, 1947, a fire started in Bar Harbor, Maine, that spread through the town and Acadia National Park. Meanwhile, wildfires sprang up across the drought-stricken Northeast, posing unprecedented challenges. Newspaper headlines blazed, winds shifted, and forests and towns burned while communities grappled with understanding and trying to control the wildfires. By the time the ash settled, the people affected knew that they must prepare in new ways for the next big one.
In October 2017, 70 years after the catastrophic fires, partner agencies and organizations came together to commemorate these historic events and share lessons learned about fire science and wildfire preparedness since the catastrophic 1947 fires. This series of events brought together folks from all sectors of the community. It was truly a partnership event, and the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange owes a huge thanks to the Maine Forest Service, Acadia National Park Fire Management Office, Bar Harbor Historical Society, the Mount Desert Island Fire Chiefs, all the speakers and participants, and the partnership between the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact and our own NAFSE organizers and community representatives.
This event was all kinds of awesome. On Monday, October 16, a scientific panel convened at the Schoodic Institute to address land manager preparedness under different climate scenarios. On Tuesday, October 17, Bar Harbor Fire Department hosted several tables of 1947 fire information and showcased antique historical firefighting equipment. Tuesday evening, the panel featured Lloyd Irland presenting on "What Happened" in the 1947 fire, Bill Patterson showing the data on "Could it Happen Again," and Tom Parent outlining "What if It Happened Again." These gentlemen were joined by four Mount Desert Island Fire Chiefs, plus Tony Davis from Acadia National Park and Jeff Currier from the Maine Forest Service Rangers who answered audience questions.
See below for presentation .pdf's and audio recordings of the presentations as well as the panel Q&A session audio recording:
On Wednesday, October 18, we had an awesome field trip group, which included many Maine Forest Service Rangers and NAFSE community members who contributed to active and great conversation. Our bus tour traced the path of the 1947 fire, and at each stop, we talked about operations, fire behavior, changes since then, and the need for more public engagement in wildfire preparedness. Doctoral student Jess Charpentier and Professor Emeritus Dr. Bill Patterson III shared information on fire ecology research.
At the first stop, Lake Wood, participants learned that the pollen record shows that fire was part of this landscape. Every 100-200 years, a large fire or wind event would cause a shift in the tree species composition. Spruce-fir forest belongs in this landscape and should be so managed. Study plots could help resource managers and fire people work better together within the Park.
The group stopped at a vista near Dolliver’s Dump, the site of the 1947 Acadia fire ignition. Today, under the same conditions, the Maine Forest Service and partners would have been able to hold the fire to the first 160 acres (pre-blowup). Firefighting equipment and communications have improved, structural protections are better, and fire departments would be coordinated and better prepared. Additionally, forewarning and weather predictions would be much better, and we would plan tactics accordingly.
At the Eagle Lake stop, we learned how research documented the increase in downed trees and fuel load from 1980, 1992, to 2016. The fuel loads measured at this site are fairly consistent with those in parts of Mount Desert Island that escaped the 1947 fire. We were reminded to “prepare for the average worst.” You never know exactly where, when, and how bad a fire might break out, but you can prepare for a window of disaster based on the hazardous conditions.
From the top of Cadillac Mountain, the group enjoyed a vista of pitch pine stands that stand as a living testament to the fire history in Acadia National Park. Meanwhile, the wind and sweeping perspective helped the group picture how the fire traveled across the island 70 years earlier.
At the last stop, the Tarn, the group was shown more vegetation plots that illustrated where the fire burned through, the site yielded hardwood species, but also spruce regeneration. Spruce scorched (but not charred) during the 1947 fire retained cones, which later regenerated into the spruce understory that exists in this unburned stand today.
One of the coolest elements of the field trip was the fact that our weather was almost identical to the conditions of 70 years ago. When we stood at the Mount Desert Island high school and listened to a dramatic reading by Dave Crary of an account of the 1947 fire crowning and jumping the road, winds picked up out of the west, and it was easy to imagine what happened 70 years ago on that very spot. What an amazing experience to retrace the path of the Great Acadia Fire of 1947 with experts in the field!
For more information about the 1947 fires, please visit http://www.northeastwildfire.org/1947-fire.
Written by Inga La Puma
Photos by Inga La Puma
I was super excited to attend the Fire and Fuels Monitoring workshop and the opportunity to visit a unique outlying pitch pine/scrub oak ecosystem in Albany, New York for the first time. About 40 other folks were heading up to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Discovery Center to make some serious headway on figuring out how to monitor fuels and fire effects. Little did we know we would be coming out of this meeting with a draft monitoring handbook for our region! I was in the New Jersey group along with several of my state colleagues and looking around I saw so many familiar faces from NAFSE activities we have hosted over the last two and a half years. What a great gathering of interested and passionate fire folks! Each table was a conglomeration of agencies and stakeholders, mainly from one state or region. In this way, all perspectives could be incorporated into designing a monitoring protocol for wildland fire and prescribed burns.
First we heard from Neil Gifford on the efforts underway at Albany Pine Bush in relation to fire and the restoration of the Karner Blue butterfly populations and habitat. The Albany Pine Bush Commission has come such a long way in the face of extraordinary challenges set amongst this suburban interface. Next we heard from Brian Sterns with an overview of what metrics are available to measure for fire effects with a wrap-up from Nick Skowronski. The theme was that "no one method fits everyone" and tailoring our monitoring protocol to our management needs was the way to go. It was a little rainy, but we were still able to head out on the trail to familiarize ourselves with the local system. We would be expected to practice our monitoring techniques on this system, so it was good to get a feel for it. This was all before noon!
Then, we went out to an area we used as a proxy for pre-burned conditions. Each group was assigned to try different monitoring practices in order to familiarize ourselves with the effort and technique for each. For example, our group did soil duff measurements along regular increments from plot center to 20ft out. We also measured scrub and tree height and recorded all of the species present in our plot. As we worked we realized how easily the sampling methods could get overbearing and un-workable for managers. The question then became, how could we get the information we needed for our region's specific needs with the most streamlined sampling techniques available?
The next morning, Mike Gallagher presented his Ph.D. work on evaluating burn severity using remote sensing and also introduced us to composite burn index (CBI) plots. The methodology of calibrating remotely sensed images to plot level data and extrapolating the information across the landscape seemed very appealing to many groups, and several incorporated it into their practice monitoring. We put the CBI protocol into practice with some minor adjustments next. We headed outside the building to plots that had been recently thinned and burned (still black!). What a difference! Measurements of plots went much faster but it was more difficult to identify species and live versus dead shrubs. We tried one more site in a thinned and burned stand where re-sprouts were plentiful. Utilizing our techniques on several different types of plots gave us perspective on what type of plots we wanted to sample and how we wanted to organize our long-term sampling efforts. For New Jersey, we thought about what kind of team it might take to sample some areas more intensively, especially those areas that demonstrate management goals such as fuel reduction and forest health.
We entered data, we evaluated pre- and post-burn results, and one person from each team presented our results to the other participants. It was similar to what a manager might need to do on their home turf to demonstrate the outcome of different prescribed fire and fuel treatments. Finally, we put together a draft monitoring protocol handbook with much help from an example handbook provided by Jack McGowan-Stinski of the Lake States Fire Science Consortium. Each group described what to do and how to do it to accomplish the management goals of their region and presented their work to the rest of the room. Workshop participants came away with a draft protocol for sampling and monitoring fire and fuel effects. Whether the protocol is used or not, we now have a quorum of fire managers in the North Atlantic Region who understand how and what to monitor after fire. I for one look forward to more workshops like this, with hands on learning and real results to further fire science in the North Atlantic.
A bonus of this trip was one of our last stops, where we got to see the Karner Blue butterfly in action on a restored area that had been thinned and burned and contained a healthy population of lupine. The lupine plant is where Karner Blues lay their eggs and is the exclusive food of Karner Blue butterfly caterpillars. Check out this amazing photo of the butterfly mating! You wouldn't know it, but these beautiful creatures aren't much bigger than your thumbnail!
Written by Inga La Puma and Kathy Schwager
Photos by Inga La Puma
It was a rainy day for travel, but as speakers and participants from the region gathered on a Wednesday night in early May for an evening discussion with fire managers, it quickly became obvious that we were in for a treat. As a New Jersey wildland fire scientist, the Long Island pines had always intrigued me, and I was sincerely excited to finally see the area. It just seemed so weird to me that there would be a coastal plains pitch pine community ON LONG ISLAND. Just as Before I moved to NJ, I pictured it as an industrial area (it mostly isn't). Similarly, I had pictured Long Island as mostly developed; but here we were at Brookhaven National Lab surrounded by forest! It was quite a pleasant surprise. The main difference I noticed right away was that the trees here seemed smaller and closer together than our pinelands in NJ, at least near the highways.
The agenda began with an evening discussion panel which included Tim Kelly, Deputy Fire Chief at Brookhaven National Laboratory who is responsible for 5000 acres on the site with only 6 firefighters to assist him. Also present were Tom Gerber, Section Warden, NJ Forest Fire Service, who conducted prescribed fires on up to 5000 acres this year in the NJ pinelands as well as Alex Entrup, Senior Specialist, Northeast Forest & Fire Management, LLC, who used to burn with The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. Finally, Brian Gallagher, a NY state forest ranger for 18 years who is attempting to bring prescribed fire back to the island's forests.
There was an in-depth discussion of equipment and tactics for fighting fire in the pinelands effectively. I was fascinated by the stories of evolving communications between local fire departments and state and federal partners. The most recent fire on Brookhaven lands benefited greatly from an improved command structure compared to previous large fires. One of the more salient points that was made was this: the time to talk about health and safety of firefighters and the community is not DURING a fire, but now, when fire management plans and fuel reduction actions can be most effective. A local fire department chief noted that local fire chiefs do seem interested in gaining operational training for wildland fire since the Sunrise fire of 1995 and Brookhaven fire of 2012, but that these volunteer departments are already strapped for time and money. Having prescribed fire trainings on the weekends would help.
The next morning we were treated to several presentations designed to give context to wild and prescribed fire efforts in Long Island. Bill Patterson, Neil Gifford, and Tim Simmons provided the first set of talks and the morning panel, offering outside perspectives of the issues facing other pine barrens ecosystems in the Northeast in comparison to Long Island, including seasonality, habitat restoration, and dealing with the wildland-urban interface.
The Long Island pine barrens are under increasing attack by the southern pine beetle. We heard from Jack Nowak, a southern pine beetle and fire expert from Asheville who stressed the importance of spacing between pines and the role of prescribed fire. Ken Clark who studies the effects of southern pine beetle in the New Jersey Pinelands also spoke. Then all of the speakers got together at the front of the room along with locals John Pavacic, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission, and John Werner, of NY State Department of Conservation to answer questions and continue the discussion.
Kathy Schwager, Brookhaven ecologist and Community Representative for NAFSE, started out the afternoon field trip with stops at local burn units as well as the 2012 Crescent Bow fire. She and her team are monitoring fuels after fire as well as infestations of orange-striped oak worm and gypsy moth attacks from the early 2000’s. We visited one unit in particular where basal area had decreased to 70 ft. squared per acre, but live fuel loading had increased by over 400% due to the opening of the canopy. (Kathy and crew were able to burn this unit last month). Kathy also discussed the mesophication that they are documenting through their forest health monitoring.
Next, we visited the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Rocky Point Demonstration Forest adjacent to several communities and values at risk, where they are thinning, burning, or thinning and burning several plots. The management plan for these plots includes continued monitoring to determine the effects of reducing basal area and removing fuels to benefit forest health and prevent southern pine beetle invasion.
As a result of this workshop, increased coordination and communication has evolved in the area. Cooperators have burned almost 200 acres of grassland in the pine barrens this spring and have started conducting growing season burns in woodlands at Brookhaven Lab. These are the first woodland burns conducted on Long Island since 2008. The workshop was another example of how discussing research, visiting sites and promoting face to face social issues works! Finally getting to the Long Island pine barrens was everything I had hoped for, but my increased understanding of local research and communication was the real treat.
Field Trip Recap - History of fire management at Camp Edwards: Lessons, challenges, and future objectives
Contributed by Amanda Mahaffey
Photos by Amanda Mahaffey, Joel Carlson and Robert Wernerehl
On Thursday, January 29th, 2017, over 50 people gathered for a day-long introduction of fire management at Camp Edwards, the 15,000-acre Massachusetts Army National Guard land within the 22,000-acre Joint Base Cape Cod. This NAFSE field trip was hosted by Jake McCumber, Natural Resources and Integrated Training Area Management Program Manager for the Massachusetts Army National Guard in collaboration with Northeast Forest & Fire Management, LLC and the Massachusetts Coastal Pine Barrens Partnership. The participants included fire managers, Americorps members, foresters, wildlife biologists, botanists, and conservation professionals. The diversity of ages, agencies and organizations, and experiences with fire on the Cape enriched the quality of conversations throughout the day.
The field tour stops provided a snapshot of the history and ongoing management at Camp Edwards and included managed grasslands, an observation point, a wildfire, an active firing range, recent mechanical and burn treatments, and a frost bottom. The overarching land management objectives at Camp Edwards are to (1) reduce fire hazard; (2) improve training lands; and (3) promote wildlife habitat and species diversity. A central management challenge at Camp Edwards is the 3,000-acre impact area, a portion of the base riddled with unexploded ordnance with a history of munitions-caused wildfires. The Base also contains and abuts significant WUI areas. Every managed acre at Camp Edwards embodies the human decisions made in an attempt to balance these three objectives and primary challenges.
After a brief welcome and site orientation, the field trip participants loaded into a bus and vans. The morning would provide an overview of fire history and management at Camp Edwards. The bus paused in the midst of former barracks and parade grounds now managed as native grassland through fire (including firefighter training), mowing, and herbicide to benefit many wildlife species, including several with populations in decline (Stop 1). Next, the group visited an observation point atop a glacial esker that under clear skies, offers a vista of the managed pinelands, the impact area, and the WUI beyond (Stop 2).
The group was walked the road at the Infantry Battle Course Range (Stop 3), an area that once received intensive training use but now is managed for early successional species such as New England cottontail. A rare lightning-caused fire spread during the growing season (July) in 2016. The group discussed the spread of the fire, the tactics and coordination of massive resources used to manage and contain it, the fire behavior exhibited, and the lessons learned from this unusual occurrence. Because of the hazard of unexploded munitions in the impact area, the fire was allowed to grow to 120 acres over three days, bounded by safe fire breaks. The fire was described as almost a drought, duff-driven fire and smoldered for a couple of weeks. All agreed that the picture would have been significantly different - bigger and more dangerous - had the lightning strikes occurred during the spring.
The next stop took the group to Sierra Range (Stop 4), an active firing range surrounded by pitch pine-scrub oak woodlands and shrubland. Here, the group explored the contrast in fire effects produced in two adjacent units under different burn conditions.
After lunch, the group had the opportunity to dig in deeper to look at fire impacts on the ground (Stop 5). First, a short walk took us to a vista that illustrated the contrast between a high-intensity fire (high flame lengths, running crown fire) and a high-severity fire (smoky, droughty conditions, deep burn over 2 weeks, low flame lengths). Next, we had a look at a rare frost bottom natural community, a depression in which temperatures can change as much as 60 degrees in the course of a day, creating unique conditions to which a specialized variety of flora and fauna are adapted. The group continued through the unit to examine differences in effects in untreated, thinned, thinned and burned, and burned areas. Many side-conversations developed and explored themes ranging from forest health to scrub-oak species differentiation.
The group wrapped up with an amazing diversity of lessons learned from the day. As participants expressed, it is important to learn from each others’ successes and mistakes and to share experiences effectively, as through a field trip. Success at Camp Edwards can be defined as keeping diversity high, keeping up with monitoring, evaluating effects, employing adaptive management, and working cooperatively with Cape Cod’s fire science and management community to ensure a safe and resilient landscape.
To learn more about fire management at Camp Edwards, we invite you to explore the resources below.
Virtual field trip map, by Jake McCumber, Camp Edwards
Field trip handout, by Jake McCumber, Camp Edwards
Field trip photos, by Northeast Forest & Fire Management
Summer wildfire photos (Stop 3, IBC Range), by Northeast Forest & Fire Management
RxB photos at Sierra Range (Stop 4), East Side Burn, by Northeast Forest & Fire Management
RxB photos at Sierra Range (Stop 4), West Side Burn, by Northeast Forest & Fire Management
RxB photos at I Range (Stop 5), 1st Burn, by Northeast Forest & Fire Management
RxB photos at I Range (Stop 5), 2nd Burn, by Northeast Forest & Fire Management
Dr. Ann Camp recently retired from the faculty of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she ignited a passion for fire in countless students and colleagues. NAFSE caught up with Ann to hear more of her story and to better understand the legacy of her teaching in fire science in the Northeast.
Ann’s first fell in love with fire while working in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where she became fascinated by the way fires influenced this ecosystem. Her passion for fire science was truly ignited during a Fire Ecology course at the University of Washington. Ann went on to study the work of Dr. Jim Agee, Dr. Thomas Ledig, Dr. Murray F. Buell, Dr. William S. Cooper, Dr. Benjamin Stout, Dr. Hugh Raup, and others who influenced the way we understand the role of fire, fire exclusion, deer, anthropogenic ignitions, and forest succession today.
Ann began fueling the fire in the ecology community (metaphorically speaking, of course) as a USDA Forest Service researcher and doctoral candidate. With the listing of the Spotted Owl as an endangered species, forests needed to be managed to include their preferred habitat (late successional) which was vulnerable due to the fuel ladders within this habitat structure. Ann’s work provided guidelines on where fire could be sustainably incorporated within a fire-regulated landscape. “Before my PhD came out in the peer-reviewed literature, I photocopied literally hundreds of copies of my dissertation as news of my work spread throughout the Inland Western U.S. and Canada,” said Ann, “My work on late-successional fire refugia in fire-regulated landscapes was rewarding in that many public and private forests incorporated my findings into their management plans.”
While Ann loves low-elevation ponderosa pine forests in the Pacific Northwest, the New Jersey Pine Barrens are another favorite ecosystem. “I love canoeing the small rivers in southern NJ (how I spent my undergraduate weekends when I wasn’t rock-climbing!). I love the upland forests dominated by pines and oaks and the Atlantic white cedar swamps and bogs,” says Ann, “A wild and fascinating place - especially in the 1960s and 70s.” Such perceptions helped shape Ann’s fascination with the changing role of fire in ecosystems. Ann reminds us that “Forestry and Fire Science are, above all, social sciences because people care about forests and have opinions about their management. You may be the best scientist in the world, but if you can’t speak to the concerns of the public, you will get nowhere in having your science findings implemented on the ground. The biophysical science part is the easy bit - it’s the human dimensions of land management that are difficult, and can often change abruptly. One escaped fire that causes a civilian fatality means that you might lose that tool for a long time. ”
Ann sees such challenges for fire scientists and managers in our region. “While the North Atlantic region has several kinds of ecosystems (oak savannah, pine barrens, even meadows) that depend on fire, its use is hindered by dense populations, critical transportation infrastructure, and issues of air quality. And a public that still often sees fire as undesirable and not the best tool for restoration. Re-introducing and keeping fire as a part of these ecosystems will only get more difficult.” To help address these challenges, Ann has dedicated her teaching career to infusing knowledge, curiosity, and a passion for fire in a generation of land managers, scientists, and environmental leaders. In the words of Erin Lane, co-founder and coordinator of the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange, “Ann’s skills are exceptional, but her willingness to get outside and experience science is what sets her apart. The Northeast is fortunate to have benefited from Ann Camp’s vast knowledge, unique expertise, varied abilities, mentoring skills, teaching talents, and most importantly, unsurpassed dedication to growing future leaders.”
At the Yale Forestry School, Ann took students to the southeastern longleaf pine forests on the annual southern forestry field trip. During these trips, Ann viewed each day as an adventure and shared her excitement for silviculture, harvesting, prescribed fire, forest health, forest administration, and other forestry issues; visited a range of mills; and explored southern culture, history, and cuisine with her students. (Ann’s co-instructor for many of these trips, Mike Ferrucci, noted that Ann told many a skeptical student that “in the South, pork is actually a vegetable.”) Knowing that classroom learning should be leavened with some practical experience, Ann found many places to visit where the local managers would let her and the students “light the woods on fire,” as prescribed burning is sometimes called. As her colleague described, “Of course after all the students had their turn, Ann would always end up with the drip torch or, even better, the tool that launches the flaming ping-pong balls. Yes, my colleague is a fire-bug!”
Many cohorts of Ann’s students credit her courses as the most important in preparing them for their management careers. Ann has high standards for her students and has been known to say, “If I give you an easy exam where you memorize facts, that won’t help you at all in the real world. When you get out of here, you will have to solve messy ecological and restoration problems. I am training you to think holistically so you can go attack the current issues facing forestry today.” These same frustrated students always return to tell her how much they appreciate what they learned in her classes. Not just the content, but the methods. In the words of Marlyse Duguid, lecturer and associate research scientist at Yale, “Ann is a remarkable scholar, but is incredibly grounded. Forestry and field ecology are messy disciplines. Ann trains her students to use the tools available, but to think critically and improve current knowledge.” As one former student articulated, Ann’s Fire Science and Policy class “pushed me to look beyond facts and think more critically about how and why society manages fire, a change that inspired me to work directly with land managers to seek answers to the many challenges faced by changing fire regimes in the United States.”
Beyond teaching, Ann’s greatest legacy to future fire scientists and managers is her incomparable mentorship. In Erin Lane’s first phone conversation with her future mentor, Ann said, “I have 100 students and I have time for you, too!” Jim Cronan, research forester with the USDA Forest Service, points to graduate research under Ann’s guidance that shaped his career in fire behavior. In Jim’s words, “Ann supported my efforts to propose a large research project with multiple academic and land management partners, an endeavor I never would have considered in my wildest graduate school dreams. It was her positive, anything-is-possible attitude that inspired me to think big and push myself hard. It was her practical knowledge of the bureaucratic labyrinth of rules and policies that made it possible to actually complete the work correctly. Her ability to help me realize my potential has been unmatched by anyone else I have worked with. I imagine that I am not alone in this regard, and there is no doubt in my mind that Ann’s overwhelming commitment to her students has created a large cadre of passionate natural resource professionals across the world whose level of achievement and self-confidence was given a big boost by Ann.” As Maryse said, “Once Ann is your mentor, you have gained a life-long ally and confidant.”
Among her achievements, Ann Camp has found teaching and mentoring the next generation of forestry and fire professionals extremely rewarding. As Mike Ferrucci describes Ann, “What I’ve learned from my friend and colleague can’t all fit into this note. But I’ll try to summarize: listen, observe, take pictures, think critically, and show your enthusiasm for learning and exploring, and your students and colleagues will prize their time with you.” The North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange is grateful to have Ann Camp’s legacy of science and teaching in our landscape.
This article was written by Amanda Mahaffey with significant contributions from Erin Lane, Marlyse Duguid, Jim Cronan, and Mike Ferrucci.
April 26, 2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of habitat burns in Massachusetts. Tim Simmons, a restoration ecologist recently retired from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, had a lot to do with that first habitat burn and the decades of ecological fire since. In the densely-populated North Atlantic region, human decisions and societal norms can be seen as a significant driver of fire in our landscape. Tim Simmons has played an immense role in helping shape Massachusetts’ fire-adapted landscape - including both natural and human communities - for the better.
Tim’s passion for fire science was ignited in the 1980s while he was conducting surveys for imperiled plant and animal species. Tim observed a pattern: Some of the most imperiled species were associated with fire-influenced habitats. Right then, Tim resolved to learn as much as he could about conducting prescribed fires and the ecological effects of fire. He set about doing just that, and in doing so, helped lead the region into a new era of prescribed fire to improve wildlife habitat.
“Looking back on my 30 or so years working with him,” says Dr. Bill Patterson, emeritus professor from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, “I see Tim as a natural historian who knows at least a little bit (and sometimes a lot) about more different aspects of natural history than just about anyone with whom I have worked with in the field. And, he is willing to consider any reasonable management protocol to benefit a population or species, while at the same time recognizing the possible benefits and risks to other species and populations.”
This open-minded approach to habitat management was not without controversy, and the many challenges of returning ecological fire to the landscape could fill a book. Through every adventure or misadventure, “Tim was always one who was not swayed by the many obstacles we faced in those early days of getting fire back on the landscape,” says Caren Caljouw, habitat biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “He helped pave the way for the successful use of prescribed fire in a responsible manner in Massachusetts and throughout New England.”
Tim has a passion for pitch pine-scrub oak barrens and all their embedded habitats including heathlands, grasslands, savannas and coastal plain ponds and wetlands. As Tim has described, “No two sites are the same, they’ve all had different fire and land use histories, support similar biotas, are under duress from a variety of sources, and are way more complex than we can imagine.” To help deepen regional knowledge and interest in such ecosystems, Tim supported the development of programs that sponsored Master’s degree students in answering research questions and seeing their results applied to ongoing habitat management. As the regional fire manager for The Nature Conservancy’s New England region, Tim was involved in such work at many sites and calls the long-term results “striking” and “gratifying.” The impact of such work has multiplied: “Many of the results generated here in Massachusetts were exported to other states struggling with the same issues.”
The Tim Simmons approach to conservation ecology “requires patience, flexibility, and ingenuity; and thinking in ‘nature's time’ rather than ‘human time,’” says Dr. Patterson, “While working with him at Montague, I came to appreciate that the best management scheme is one that is implemented widely, but in small increments, and in every possible season of the annual cycle of nature.” Tim’s management approach also embraces a multitude of disciplines; he has been described by his colleagues as a skillful land manager, naturalist, entomologist, and fire ecologist, and as a fire practitioner with extensive knowledge of fire behavior, fire effects, and conservation biology. “I recall many days in the field where I would excitedly point out a plant or plant community’s response to fire, and Tim would not only acknowledge that but would enthusiastically expand upon that observation by sharing his understanding of the benefits of fire to a multitude of species, plants and animals, and the significance of their inter-relationships in our natural world,” says Caren, “He is always willing to share that knowledge with others.”
This willingness to share knowledge is fundamental to the Tim Simmons approach to conservation ecology in the human dimension. Tim has given countless presentations throughout his career and has empowered planning boards, fire departments, students, and conservation-minded citizens with an increased understanding of fire ecology in the pine barrens ecosystem. Tim teaches people as naturally as he studies complex ecosystems. His passion for fire ecology is contagious, stimulating new ways of thinking in those around him. Because of this inspiring commitment, says Caren, “his contributions to prescribed fire and biodiversity conservation are tremendous.”
Tim has also been a regular instructor in a series of professional trainings on the planning and implementation of prescribed fire, hosted at the Massachusetts Army National Guard training facility with numerous partners on Cape Cod. Joel Carlson, principal with Northeast Forest and Fire Management, LLC, says, “Tim’s participation in wildland fire trainings in Massachusetts over the years has been of great benefit to not only the students but also his co-instructors. His wealth of knowledge related to fire ecology and prescribed fire operations has always flowed freely and in an expert manner in his usual soft spoken way. By sharing his knowledge, Tim reminds us all why we should be committed to the fire management New England’s pyrophilic natural communities.”
Members of the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance (SEMPBA) could not be more appreciative of Tim’s work in the coastal Massachusetts pine barrens landscape. A 1998 poster that hangs on the walls of the SEMPBA office, Treasures of Our Natural Heritage Coastal Plain Ponds of Southeastern Massachusetts, beautifully combines art and environment to portray this imperiled ecosystem. SEMPBA’s Sharl Heller and Frank Mand believe that this highly-effective educational illustration, which Tim helped promote, is missing only one critical element - Tim Simmons himself.
“Tim understands the importance of engaging the public in conservation,” write Sharl and Frank. Tim’s active engagement in SEMPBA, an all–volunteer organization of people concerned about the loss of globally rare habitat, was crucial in the recent formation of the Pine Barrens Regional Conservation Partnership. As Sharl and Frank have summarized, “Tim’s dedication to the preservation of the southeastern Massachusetts landscape, coupled with his ability to explain complex ecosystems to lay people, has simultaneously educated and inspired us to keep moving forward against huge challenges. In the face of continuing and increasing pressure to develop these precious resources, we need more Tims, Tim Times Two-Hundred.”
Tim himself sees opportunities to continue learning about fire. “When burning was a novelty instead of a well-established management practice thirty years ago, there was much more quantitative monitoring occurring,” Tim says, “One goal of every burn should be: what do we want to learn from this burn?” Tim also highlights the need to educate regulators responsible for air quality as smoke becomes increasingly important as an issue. “We need research to quantify prescribed fire emissions and their contribution to air quality impacts and emissions trade off models to address these perceptions and reverse the trend to try to reduce prescribed burning because we really need to be doing much, much more if the declining habitats and their dependent species are going to be conserved.”
As Dr. Patterson has learned, “Conflicts arise. Nothing is perfect. But doing nothing is often worse than doing something, so long as you do not do "something" to *everything* all at once! I firmly believe in this management approach, and I do not think I would have come that appreciation had it not been for the opportunity to work with people like Tim!”
When asked what advice he would share with the next generation of fire scientists and managers, Tim shared the following: “Like the proverbial hammer wielder to whom all problems are nails, fire practitioners must understand that fire is a complex process and it interacts with many other variables and the answer to all conservation questions is not always a drip torch.” If we follow the example of Tim Simmons, we will continue learning about and thoughtfully stewarding these complex, fire-adapted ecosystems and the communities that call them “home.”
This article was written by Amanda Mahaffey with significant contributions from Tim Simmons, Bill Patterson, Caren Caljouw, Sharl Heller, Joel Carlson, and Frank Mand.
NAFSE was privileged to host the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) Governing Board (the folks that decide whether to fund our Exchange activities) for a science and management field trip on Oct 19th, 2016 in the New Jersey Pinelands. The warmer than normal fall day began at Stockton Seaview Inn as we gathered to explain how the day would proceed, focusing on JFSP funded projects in the morning and management applications in the afternoon. We then boarded shuttle buses for our excellent field tour of areas in the pinelands used for fire science research and management activities. NAFSE leadership would like to thank all of the scientists, managers, and community representatives who spoke to the Governing Board about their important work in New Jersey and beyond. Each speaker's handouts are linked in the agenda below along with a few videos of take home messages recorded during the wrap-up session. Also, don't forget to check out the virtual field trip with contributed photos for each stop (thanks to Karen Prentice, Maris Gabliks, Amanda Mahaffey and Inga La Puma for photos).
Overall, the trip went well and although the NAFSE leadership team came home with a few chigger bites, we hope our guests did not!
New Jersey Field Trip Agenda – 10/19/16
8:00 Field trip overview: Stockton Seaview - Fire History Map of Field Trip Area >
Introduction - Dr. Nick Skowronski, USDA Forest Service, NRS, NAFSE
Welcome Stockton University – Dr. George Zimmermann, Stockton University
Field trip logistics- Dr. Nick Skowronski
8:30 Depart for Stop 1 – Mini-buses
9:00 Field Stop 1: Penn State Forest
9:05 Walking Stop A:
Pinelands Fire Ecology – Dr. George Zimmermann, Stockton University - Handout.pdf>
Historical Perspectives - Tom Gerber, Section Firewarden NJFFS and private landowner
Penn State Forest and 2016 RxB - Shawn Judy, Assistant Division Firewarden, NJFFS
9:50 Walking Stop B and C:
Evaluation and Optimization of Fuel Treatment Effectiveness with an Integrated Experimental/Modeling Approach. JFSP Project: 12-1-03-11
o Overview and three-dimensional fuel consumption - Skowronski - Handout.pdf>
o New measurement tools – Bob Kremens, Rochester Institute of Technology - Handout.pdf>
o Fire Environment and WFDS modeling – Eric Mueller, University of Edinburgh - Handout.pdf>
Measurement of firebrands generated during fires in pine-dominated ecosystems