PubTalk 06/2019 — USGS Fire Science

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Title: USGS Fire Science: Understanding why wildlands burn and what can be done about it

  • Wildfires are expensive, dangerous, and have massive impacts on people and ecosystems, yet ecosystems evolved with wildland fire. 
  • USGS fire scientists help understand what factors affect wildland fire occurrence, intensity, spread, and effects. 
  • What can be done to reduce the damaging effects of wildfires and increase the beneficial aspects of wildland fire - USGS works with fire and land managers to indentify cost effective options. 

Note: The video ends just before the question and answer segment begins. However, the transcript contains the questions and answers that were not recorded on video.


Date Taken:

Length: 01:05:41

Location Taken: Menlo Park, CA, US

Video Credits

Contact: Amelia Redhill -


Stand by for realtime captioning. 
>> Before I start, I want to thank you all for showing up. It makes a difference to our speakers to have a full audience. 

>>> Good evening and welcome to the United States geologic survey June public lecture. Before we get started, I want to plug next month's lecture on July 25. It will be by J Wilson. He is taking the pulse of our planets. It's at the tenure status report from the United States national network. There are flyers in the back. I encourage you to pick one up so you can save the date. There's also a lot, some materials back there, hopefully you've had a chance, some of you have pick those up. 
>> We went onto the main event, tonight's lecture which is USGS fire science, understanding why while Lance burn and what can be done about it. 
>> We are thrilled to have it presented by Paul with her ecosystems group from Virginia. Paul has nearly 30 years in government service, he began as a scientist with the New York State biologic survey, then joined the fission lout fish and wildlife service. He set up a regional data center for the service and prototypes numerous geospatial applications for the national wildlife refuge system. 
>> That he went to the field setting up biologic programs at three national wildlife refuges in New Jersey. Next, he went to the refuge system headquarters where he worked on strategic planning and became chief of budget overseeing $600 million budget. He went back to the field to manage nearly 1 million acre step of the Sheldon and heart Mountain national wildlife refuge. They are located in the corner of California, Nevada and Oregon. He address interesting challenges like she grass and welfare and the review pipeline. He went back to refuge headquarters to become chief of policy for refuges. In 2014, he became deputy director at the office of wildland fire in the department of the interior. He joined the United States geologic survey which we are very happy about in 2016 for his current position as wildlife, wildland fire science coordinator. The monthly public lecture series is pleased to bring you a program about fire science. Ask you to please hold questions until the end. Let's give a warm welcome to Paul. 
>> Output in a plug for the seminar next month. I know Jake well, he's a good speaker with a lot of energy and you have a good time with his lecture. Stack I come at this difference than the traditional scientist. I spent most of my career in managements. It's a pleasure to be here with you tonight and hopefully address some important topics associated and certainly it's privileged to be with USGS. I come in from the science and manager perspectives. What is the science we need, what information do we need to make the hard decisions on complicated issues. Even though I was in management for quite a long time, I was always an ardent, impassioned user of the results of USGS and others in the science community. I am not an expert scientist and in any one of the subjects. I know a little about a wide variety and I want to give credit to more than the hundred scientists that produce all this wonderful information we need. 
>> I will be highlighting some of this research on science as we walk through and try to address some of these questions. How many have been affected by the fires or know people that have? Raise your hand? 
>> You're in the center of all that's taking place, telephone is the frontline. Even if you don't know someone's house that may have been burned out, you are breathing the smoke through the summer when the fires in Alberta or to the west are effective. 
>> It is important to know why fire is important and you are vested in its already. We also need to know what is causing this. You probably have heard quite a bit about it in the news or maybe you read some science about and what is being done about the fires and how to address us. 
>> I can highlight what's next but I want to make sure I save time at the end to address questions you have. 
>> This is the Lake Christina fire and cobalt Colorado. I took the picture last week sorry, last summer while at my nieces wedding and she was frustrated because I was always checking out the fire. Look at this. It's two miles from where the wedding reception was. 
>> The day before, this was just smoldering, a little bit of smoke. Then the wind kicked up, it was hot and dry and made a 7000 acre run. You can see the angles of the clouds, this is a vortex rising up because generated by the heat of the fire. 
>> Why is it important? This is from 2018 statistics. Almost $5 billion was spent just on suppression. That is federal and state fire suppression which is a massive amount of money. The national Institute of standards and technology did a review and 2017 and the last bullet, highlighted if they estimate based on review between 72-$250 billion a year is being affected by wildland fire. Some, there's a lot of good stuff but also a lot of bad. Last year, 8.7 million acres burned as compared to the 20 year average of 6.9 million acres. I have a graph to show that. 25,000+ structures burned. Many of those, homes. There will $11.4 billion of claim losses in California. There were 120 fatalities, including 19 firefighters. That doesn't include all the other health impacts and other factors associated with people. 
>> On the good side, 6.4 million acres were burned in prescribed fire, plant admissions to help achieve resource benefits as well as reduce future virus. We look at this information. This is suppression showing increase over the years. The red line, horizontal is the tenure average of 1.7 billion. That's how much it costs last year. This year, it's difference. In terms of total acreage, it's below the year to date average. You never know what will happen as the fire season continues. They are defining it as a fire year rather than a higher season because there's always fires burning someplace. One of the big patterns evidence, the fires are getting bigger, more intense and frequency of the number of large wildfires is increasing. The total numbers of acres mentioned earlier, this shows that level is but that is the total acreage. They are getting bigger and fatter. 

>>> One of the important things, let's address the questions. The vegetation in the United States and around the world evolved was some kind of fire as part of ecosystem. This is a map produced by one of the programs that shows the fire regime patterns across the country. These fires are an important driver, they are adapted to fire and may need fire for thesis brought accounts to open up and drop seeds, an important component. 
>> In the southeast, frequent fire interval shows in a number of the stands, they need fire everyone-three years. Out West in the Sierras you have the ponderosa pine, it's more of 5-30 years to have a healthy functioning ponderosa pine forest. One of the factors is accumulation of fuel. One of the problems taking place, for hundred years has been aggressive suppression of wires. It's a much reduced area of land that has burned in frequency so you accumulate the fuel. The common fire portrayal to understand fire behavior, you need to know about the fuels or vegetation, the terrain and the weather. A lot is based on that. Fuel is the part we have the greatest control over. 
>> One of the factors I'll hits on a few of these illustrating the science. Change in climate and more extreme weather patterns. Developments in the wildlands. The holding out of the houses, the roads and other infrastructure. Invasive plant species and insect disease outbreaks, accumulation of full fuel mentioned which resulted in high cost and complexity of fighting fires which also makes it more difficult to manage the fuels to reduce virus. We will touch on this. I'm trying to sprinkle all through here, the scientists are the people doing the work. I just talk. Craig Allen and Alice Margolis are couple people who have done a lot looking at fire history and regime patterns. 
>> One of these is changing climate weather patterns. We see an increase in warming temperatures and that varies across the country we see an increase period of drought and more erratic precipitation. When I say erratic visitation, we may have a lot of snow, a lot of moisture one year which you see a flush of growth, grass and perennials and other plants which creates the fine fuels and when it adheres or if there is a drought, that fine fuel becomes the ignition point whether by human or lightning or some other cause. 
>> This results in increased intensity and size of the fire. It can spread easier, it can get broader, longer fire seasons. Some of the length in fire seasons, one of our scientists has pointed out, it's part of the reason for the longer fire season, where people out there starting fires accidentally on purpose. We may not normally get up wire start, you may, because of people. 
>> That also affects the direct and indirect effects of the fires. 
>> This is a study done by Sand Key published in 2017. Up here, you see the redder areas. You see a major forecast for the next 50 years where you expect to see a lot more fire which then has indirect effect of increasing sedimentation. Erosion and sedimentation. 
>> This changes patterns which has an effect upon erosion. 
>> I have a display copy of the postcards that routes have a link or if you want to, there over 900 studies compiled from 12 years work of scientists and most have links that go right to the paper. You don't have to trust my word, you can go right to the paper and read and look at the science we have produced. 
>> Another factor is developments in the wildlands. This makes it building out the houses, the cabin in the woods, running the power lines or pipelines or the other infrastructure. People need to do what they need to do. The result, it makes it more expensive and complicated for fire management. You have to, if you are fine manager, you have to take extra precautions if you do a prescribed fire. 
>> There is a greater chance wherever you have people and fuel, the greater chance you have ignition. That is a big concern. If there is a road or pipeline, whether it's accidental, someone parked a car with hot metal pipes will progress that can start which is very easy to do. One of the fires was started by Sparks resulting from a flat tire. From the metal rim hitting the road. 
>> There is a greater chance of ignition. There is also a greater chance of invasive species. 
>> When I was at Sheldon Mountain along the roads and primarily only on the roads where we found she grass. All these other weeds that are problem for fire as well as biologic integrity. 
>> This is a study from one of the scientists. They looked at the change from a span of 10 years and is difficult to see on this. Where you see the red, there'll be a lot of small red axles sprinkled through there, that's where they have seen the weakest change in buildout. 
>> That's what scares fire and land managers more than anything. There's so much buildable land out there and the results, it is getting billed. 
>> It changes the pattern. 
>> Invasive species I mentioned. These are couple of the bad boys across the country. The colored polygons indicate where some of these errant, arid shrub lands. We have the Mojave, I am not familiar with -- it shows that there. She grass is probably the worst reputation and well deserved for flipping upside down these fire regimes. 
>> The high sagebrush and the low sagebrush. These are areas that burned 50-200 years. The low stage, maybe more than 300 or 500 years was the normal fire interval. When that sheet grass, it looks like and Alpine environments. You don't think if I would carry there but when you put that grass and wind in, it will plow right through. 
>> It has flipped it upside down. These are buyer adapted weeds that come in. The next slide shows more about how that takes place. Buffalo grass along the border. Mediterranean grass. On one hand, these are buyer adapted weeds and has changed these regimes. For others, it's a very good control measure. It was a compilation of how you can use fire to control other invasive plants. 
>> Fin courts, this nice compilation of work. One of our community of practice calls use this graphic to illustrate the issues. 
>> The Sage in the Southwest deserts is especially apparent. The normal vegetation distribution, there are a lot of openings in between the shrubs and trees. They very rarely have our ignitions. You have incursion of fire adaptive weed that gives the more carpet of fine fuels that when the lightning strike hits a lot of these remote areas, you can catch and spread which kills the shrubs and trees. 
>> The response after that is usually the fire adaptive weed come back quicker and in fact partially exclude the native plant restoration. That burns more frequently in that cycle is increasing the amount of coverage until you have these monocultures of sheet grass. It's devastating. You see that take place over hundreds of thousands of acres. This is an area where a lot of our scientists work on because is no silver bullet. There's no easy control found for a number of these. They work with a lot of different techniques. What is being done about fire. You are all impacted in some way. What has been done or what can be done? The logo up there is for the national cohesive wildland fire management strategy. Back around 2009, Congress said you have to come up with an integrated strategy to deal with this. 
>> Land managers work with state choristers and worked with local communities, many NGOs put together an impressive port that culminated in strategy signed off by the secretaries of interior and agriculture 2014 it says, it's all hands. And would have to work together. Fire doesn't recognize boundaries and they had three main. We need to restore the resiliency of the landscape the fire. To be having more resist recover better after fire takes place. That gets that you'll manage them. We need to have fire adapted communities. People need to take responsibility and create defendable space, look at how to harden their homes to make it more resistant. There, we need to respond to fires an appropriate way. In some cases, that's put it out. In other cases use wildfire to reduce fire risk by removing or reducing some of that fuel. 
>> Another important step, recognize the need to actively take care and do the things. The executive board was signed December 21 and then followed by the DOI secretarial order to implement that. Reinforces key principles of the cohesive strategy for protecting people and communities, health and for other federal lands and actively manage working together to actively manage and reduce this virus. 
>> There's a lot more in the I would encourage if you want to take a look, there's a lot of good stuff in there and it's galvanizing people to work together to address the issue. No one person or one group can do it. 
>> When I started with USGS a couple years ago, I was first of all surprised by you do fire sense science. 
>> There's well over 100 scientists I work with, hundred 50 subscribers now. It was breathtaking to see the variety of work being done and how many are doing it. It goes from the science center in Sioux Falls worked with land fire data which you saw couple images of to working on what happens with debris flow afterwards. I tried to find a way to understand, capture and illustrate it simply. This is a story map is a much more competent picture at the end because to integrate all of this really gets comp located. 
>> It represents a variety of managements, disciplines and themes. I will try to organize it under these four to convey simpler this whole picture. Fire management, fire ecology, post fire effects and geospatial. 
>> Fire history and management, a lot of people have heard about Smokey bear for service research and development is emphasizing the forested environment. Many of the lands are actually non-worsted. It's desert shrub lands, grasslands, wetlands, tantra. This map illustrates the distribution of the 500 million+ acres the Department of Interior is responsible for and USGS is a prime science agency. 
>> A lot of what's being done is understand the current historical fire regimes which we saw a map on earlier. Explore and evaluate effectiveness in these dual treatments when you spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on fuel treatment, you want to know it's going to make a difference. It's not being thrown away. 
>> Burn area response teams that comes in after to assess what is the state of the landscape. Are there things we need to do is to stabilize? So it doesn't get worse? Supporting them with imagery, scientific information, how to recover? Effective invasive species which you heard about already. Ignitions sources, climate change, how are these affecting fire risk? Factors that text housing losses from large fires? Vulnerability and ecosystem services at risk. Understanding the bigger picture and how we can ameliorate some of those risks with treatment planning and other things that communities can do to help reduce those risks. 
>> Fuels management, in the fire triangle we have terrain, fuels and weather, it's really the fuels we can, which means the vegetation that managers can go out and reduce risk with fats. 
>> A big part is focused on efficacy of treatments, reduce risk and what is the effect of those treatments? There are hard trade-offs. One of the effects that fuel treatment have on plants, animals and ecosystems these land managers are charged to protect and manage? A lot of those active management treatments include things like prescribed fire, holding fire bricks, forest thinning and invasive species control. 
>> This is a two track, in the high desert. There was a review of what is known, this was a year ago. What is known about these fuel breaks and the ability to stop fires? They found very interesting things. One, this not a lot of published peer review objective studies that were done. A lot of his anecdotal. That was a gap. The other is, it's not just disruption of fuel to stop the fire. It's the ability to safely put a fire crew out there to be able to back burn or do other things to reduce the impact without putting their lives in jeopardy. 
>> That review they did respond a couple of new studies where we look at using fire models. We look at new fuel breaks going into trying keep the fire smaller. There setting up experiments to expand the knowledge and knowing what works and when doesn't it work. At what temperature and when will a fire jump this. The only thing have to do is get the cruise out of the way because you won't stop it. 
>> Over the last month, in California for instance, one of the results of the last two years, especially with paradise, it's need to do fuel breaks along the major evacuation routes. To assure people have a chance to get out. When you have a wind driven fire and will talk about that, you have hours to take your action. A lot of people are looking at how to keep you all safe. 
>> The picture in the upper right-hand corner, pine stand with long leaf in there as well down in northern Florida. To illustrate, between this is one year after fire, look at that layer 3 feet tall and this is 3-5 years after. Vegetation grows incredibly fast. A lot of it's fire adapted. It has volatile oils and they have to burn. There is a culture down there up to me a lot of prescribed burning to keep the natural regime going, otherwise, it's very difficult to control the wires there. 
>> This map -- this is the land fire direct derived data. I will talk about that more later. 
>> A key part of this was fire adapted community. The city the study was set up with one of the factors associated with impacted communities? They collected fire damage data using area limit tree. There's a house here and not after. Assessing where were the impacts? Identify with the landscape factor contributed to those fire risks and what are the home factors. Those being what was the building made of? Was their fallen debris on the roof of the home? What factors like that affected it. Evaluate the efficacy and how the space concept worked to protect the house? One of the things they found out, it's very important if you have leave your gutter or tree over the house and is a of branches and fuel especially these wind driven buyers. It can have a big impact on what homes are burned and which are not. Their continuing this work because some of these fires, many other places as well there is interest in contrast coming out between wind and fuel driven fire. What is important is to do the work ahead of time. You don't have to Milan models into evaluations. You need to know where the safety zones are and what other patterns likely to take place. This has been a discussion in meetings with FEMA and fire demonstration. A lot of people in California, it is very impressive they are doing a lots quickly to try and address the problem. They're very good people working on it. 
>> One of the other kinds is how do you support the fire fighters responding. From our national civil application center, where the fires when they light up, how do we get that best information. Solicitation affirmative that takes place in the most recent information with satellite to capability, where are the hotspots. Can we map that out. Had we move it to almost real-time to know what's going on with the fires when they're out there. 
>> This is the noisy Creek fire. These are actual fires sufficient to be detectives to show where the active head is. This is coming up to the water here. Likelihood spurting across a body of water, this is the head of a fire in the front moving out. 
>> Ecology and restoration is another big area of war. What effect as well fire and the fuel treatments have on the habitat population. Plants, fish, invertebrates and reptiles, there's a couple of these species in Southern California.. The sage grouse, there has been a tremendous and vested in understanding the change in population and conservation. I'll talk more about that. Had a lease prescribed fires to circuit? We talked about fire adapted species. Had a reason to get those benefits? Post my recovery and restoration. How to the plants and animals respond to that fire? How to lessen the impact. Had we better control invasive species in different ways we can foster recovery and restoration for desirable vegetation after this. 
>> Climate change and other factors that affect vegetation and carbon dynamics. Bless what is more Mollusca. It's going on a wildfire vegetation commission permafrost. Alaska's a very different beast anyone from Alaska says that. Natural cause fires were very unusual in Alaska until the last few decades with increasing temperature. They started getting these storm systems which they never really saw before. We have quite a few people that work with University of Alaska to look at that. 
>> This is post wildfire restoration. With sagebrush, good system shown here and what it looks like after fire looking at how do we foster the sagebrush and the native species. Is very interesting, things looking at what is the role of Biologics soil crust in these areas and foster the regrowth of the native species. Back in 2015, 16, they started with a big workshop bring all the scientists and managers and anyone with a really big stake in its together to say what's going on in this sagebrush. What's going on with the sage grouse. How is fire tied into it. 
>> That last part was captured in the fire management strategy actionable science plan. It was exciting to participate in C that. That is blueprint for the research taking place that we have funded with my small amount of funding. The fire science program has put several million dollars towards and Bureau of land management and other agencies have invested as well. 
>> There are not silver bullets. Their evolving the techniques to better understand how do you combine herbicide treatments, how do you ensure the success as much as you can? I reducing productive on this. 
>> A lot of research expended on that. What I was at Sheldon heart, we hosted to the extent mental plots. Their 14 across the whole great basin. He was phenomenal to see a great scientific design applied to understand the relationships, what are the social economic aspects. What are the impacts of these different treatments, how do we move it forward. The continued interaction with the managers from the scientists, it's a broad group from forest service, USGS, other agencies. Was one of the first coproduction efforts and actionable science plan. What is the next step? One of the scientists were good land management, they invest a lot of money into the resort recover after that fire. They set up these experiments of treatments as well as the regular treatments. Thousands of monitoring blocks. How different factors affecting how can that be layered together to ensure the greatest success. 
>> We have quite a few people looking at how it changes there were a lot of other components that are dangerous and difficult to deal. With the diff's between wildfire and structural smoke. It was at the same or different that come out of that. One of the take-home messages, there's some pretty noxious stuff coming out of the human produced structural areas. 
>> Also looking at different kinds of hazard assessment warnings. Fire effects on water quality and quantity and water supply and the structure. The water infrastructure is really important. They do factors such as drought. One of the things that surprised me but makes sense, we have the prior slide setting up studies to monitor what happens after fire with wind erosion and he has found that on some of the site of 3-5 inches of the top layer. It's blown by the way in crating some of the dust storms you can see in these areas. 
>> We can talk about vegetation a lot. Vegetation has a key function here as well. We characterize burn severity. To extend the original vegetation organic matter still there. This is a map up here showing with four categories from extreme to low. That is used in the next two slides. This is monitoring trends and burn severity. You can look from 1984 to 2016. You can look for fires over thousand acres. What is the distribution of burn severity across those fires? What is the fire history across the country? This looks at degree flow risk and warning systems. One of our programs, they do dozens and dozens of these each year, many of the fires in California, what is the likelihood of landslide type event, potential volume and the hazard to human infrastructure to people? The burn severity which we just talked about, how much vegetation is there to hold that matrix in place and impede the effect of water coming down. Soil properties again, similar physical aspects that affected smaller ability to debris flow. And rainfall character six. Is there enough precipitation to cause a degree flow to take their place. What can be done for stabilizing a quick response? Or other types of medication? When I put this together, a month ago, this slide, there were 56 mapping available online. That's one of the maps that shows various degrees or likelihood to take place. The upper a picture is one of the landslides warehouse buried by it. Let me show you a live video from one of the monitoring. 
>> This is monitoring, those folders on the upper right side, the one there is almost the size of the car. The one in the center right is a size of a dinner table. You will see boulders coming to. This is all the upstream debris and rocks flowing down. That was a tree that just went by. That reshapes the channels, the whole terrain when these events take place. When you lose this organic matter, this is not good.[ Laughter ] Did you see that rock-a-bye? Massive impact that can happen. They are mapping this out at the request of local committees to fire and emergency management teams. That video really wants to run. I could look at these all day. 
>> You can see the shrub vegetation. I get excited about this. [ Laughter ] 
>> This is big, dangerous stuff. I do love learning about it. We are producing it. 
>> Another big impact is post fire water quality and quantity. The fire changes to physical and chemical properties. This organic matter vegetation impedes impact of raindrops, helps shape, snow. Their physical care sticks there. To absorb this moisture and foster infiltration to repelling it. I have done this. You go on a fire and he put water on. This is a normal landscape with trees and litter that presents this matrix. Stabilizes the soil and helps in the infiltration of water through the bedrock or soils downstream in a way that can recharge aquifers but also does it with a manageable process. This shows the range of suspended particles or solids, dissolved, organic carbon, a variety of solutes dissolved in this is nitrates. One of the components of fertilizer period this is what is in the normal functioning ecosystem. This is the difference. It's significant difference in terms of once, what is inverted into suspended solids. 
>> Where we are at with a couple things, debris flow is how can they map out potential for inundation. Where is all the material going to go? What infrastructure, what communities are at risk from that. We will kick off a project this year to try and develop a model for that. Had we not this deformed fire takes place. Rather than map these risks after a fire, how do we do it or? So you can prioritize the fuel treatments and other mitigation measures to reduce the risk of this. Another one is how long does it last? When do you store the normal ecosystem function to stabilize and visitation layers on top. 
>> The last area to talk about is remote sensing geospatial technologies, you have been seeing a few of these. This is a map that burns severity map. Lands cover, digital elaborates, this is the difference kinds of sensors, hyperspectral imagery versus multispectral. How do you make this available to any of you to look at. You can dew point cloudlike image on the left you have many thousand points of interest going down to measure to do those vertical projections to look at and characterize the vegetation and tools. Because fire behavior is dependent upon the nature of that fuel. How much moisture is in it. how can we improve the fuel modeling? We'll talk about that a second. Fuels are highly variable over space and time and difficult to measure. Going from an area of photo or land image, we have a great deal more structural information. There are a couple other scientists, Matt Brooks is working on this. A number of people from for service R&D. How do other dissonances like beetle or Jott affect and then, there's so much you can do. Is still very expensive. We have a project I'm starting up with colleagues to characterize before and after achievements and fires. How do we characterize that? 
>> Land fire, this is me and potatoes has been for quite a few years. It's maps and data on vegetation, wildland fuels to see the images already. This is vegetation type as opposed to regimes. Departure from historical condition and terrain characteristics. This is all the information you need for fire behavior. They uses information for management planning to produce the fire plant and all the land management agencies are required to produce all the land there as possible for to help respond to fire when it takes place and prioritize your achievements out there. It's use for just vision decision support system with the data that drives the fire behavior model and points out key characteristics out there and they're trying to protect sensitive areas. After fires, to help inform what was out there before? What is a desirable vegetation after fire and help develop the bear plans. 
>> We have a few people to work with the fire management committee at the national fire center to map out where the fire occurs, what are the 24-hour parameters so you can look at the change and spread of the fire. They have gone back in time to capture it as well so you can look at historic fires and how that is important when you have the fire incident management team looking at where the fires will go. That's why go to look at this fire or the spread of fires across the country to look at the change of our activity. You can all accesses. It's a map of sheet grass and it's near real-time. Within weeks of the cheat grass, drying out and curing her becomes the fuel.  We are doing it every year now. To Cameron to characterize the seasonal change in fuels and wire behavior. That's what Sagebrush looks like. Where are things going? They have a community of practice, we try to coordinate and collaborate as much as we can. We are developing a strategic plan for fire science. It's a scientist across the whole agency working at all these disciplines. How to integrate and collaborate fire signs across all federal agencies. With the universities and the others. There's a lot more that needs to be done and can be done. Is a lot of discussion taking place. The White House subcommittee on disaster reduction 2015 issued a report with how to set up that kind of committee of practice across federal agencies. I have 2/illustrate the concept a little bit. There are models there are few models in consumption. The current system is very simple. A couple dozen categories the fuel type used in the system. Fire behavior models are based upon a 1972 study. Is a statistical pattern, not based upon real fire behavior. I hear all the time about firefighters did not see their fire behavior before. Having captured in the models, it's different conditions used to develop those equations. 
>> What is used for plume model are based upon the chimneys of cold fire power plants. It's a lot more complicated than that. There are whole weather systems, characteristics that help drive the fire and creates its own weather if you have a big enough system going. The smoke generated is not all smoke is the same. What happens to it as it goes up in the Strand port. What is the chamfered mechanism and how does it change? You're getting smoke down here from Alberta. These models have not been adequately validated and calibrated to all the conditions out there which varies tremendously across the country. They have not been well couple together. The evaluation experiment is doing a series of highly regimented fires to better validate these models to improve them and drive more to physics space model with three-dimensional fuel's character six. It's exciting to see that and expensive to do. 
>> This is my revised story map. 
>> We been trying to figure out what is the future science? How do you integrate and work across disciplines in a way to be able to deal with the collocated interacting factors taking place. This was polished a little bit. This was a morning brainstorm where we on the left mapped out what other kinds of data and models available now that characterize the blue boxes which are the main drivers. We have social political environmental and operational. What are the attitudes of people, how motivated are they to do fuel treatment around their homes and what is their opinion of smoke or tolerance to smoke from prescribed fire? The people is the the people oriented stuff, what operationally affected what you can do? This all goes to a key hazard factor like wildland fire. You could do any number of things. Wildland fire we can describe in terms of fire intensity, size and likelihood. That affects values like habitat, economic factors and goes on and on, whatever is important to you. 
>> This is a simple divide risk model for fire. You can cascade this because fire is affecting debris flow which is a hazard unto itself for letting. Fire changes the potential for landslides and floods. It interacts with invasive species water quality and all these things are affecting all through the chain. Try to understand, conceptual model, how does this fit together? How do we do this? Did a lot of these different things. Is no place we tried the whole picture. Let's take a battery of scientists we have available and look at holistic in an area. That so we tried to figure what to do. How do we make this more efficient to deal with complex interacting factors are actually taking place had, I have after she summarizes it postcards have a link. Our website has a lot of information, all the emerging publications and who is doing what. If you want to dive deeper, there's a lot of good stuff there. I'm the chairman of the governing board for the fire science program. We have are presented as the fire management science on their. A lot of good work takes place. Important for you, they may be the fire science exchange network. Fire will take you to that network. If you really want to find out more I, the ones actually doing the research, that's a good place to do that. This is the website, what are your questions? I would love to try and see how I can help. 
>> It seems the holy Grail is a formula for predictive analytics we are seeing a lot of startup companies talking about was the best mapping that has a lot of features. We are at the epicenter of technology. Unfortunately it's not being utilized which is in the dark ages. 
>> I don't think I can comment on that. Every agency in the Bay Area is doing more. They have a lot of catching up to do. I would like to hear your perspective on when we might see a formula that can take in the wind and all that stuff and be able to come up with a real-time prediction that could help evacuations. 
>> Great question. This diagram as an indication of what you're asking, this is a very simplified diagram of how these fit together. Those patterns and processes change across the country. What's happening in the Sierra Nevada is not the same as was happening West and South or to the east. That's part of the challenge in terms of coming up with the common statements. If you are not validating them, if you're not evaluating that to find out if it really works for you, that is an issue. There are many parts of your question. If you have wind driven fires, you got a couple hours to make the decision. This meeting we had in San Diego go, we met with CAL fire, San Diego, area and communities there. Did a great job explaining what they are doing now. The how they have changed a lot of the discussion, if it's a wind driven fire, there's nothing you can do, models will not help you after fire starts because you have so little time. 
>> The best investment is preparation ahead of time. What is the evacuation route. What do we need to watch out for? If that kind of investment have time. These evacuation routes are important and need to focus on you'll Exelon them to reduce the potential to limit the utility of that evacuation. There is no one answer. I'm not going to speak about consultant companies because of had some great discussions with them. There's a lot of good work being done, they're helping a lot of state agencies. A quick shift between states, Utah, Texas, California, Washington and Oregon. It such a big complicated problem. You cannot put the fires out. Not to limit the damage that exacerbates future risk. A big shift in terms of how do we work with communities and vegetation and treatments investing in the stream is to protect the watershed, protect the communities. To have the uses people want on their landscapes. It's really all of those efforts and more will take to address it. 
>> We are trying to figure out how do we enhance our organization and better provide this information. How do we link it at her to prove link it better to provide better models. They are building it's based on pieces and data from others. They talk to insurance companies, consultants and they're all looking for better information and better models to help people make these decisions. 
>> That's a great question. And hard-won. 

>> [ Participant comment/question off-mic ]
>> I recognize the difficulty of federal scientists having to deal with the politics of it. The end question here is reasons why we should be more optimistic in California. Plenty of us are extremely pessimistic about the situation. We have seen federal science diminish, people pushed aside. We have seen denial of climate change, we've seen studies disappear from federal sites. We've seen scientists denied going to conferences. We have seen a chief executive tell us to get out there with breaks and dump water and blame state for what happened on federal lands. Your perfectly free to take the Fifth Amendment here. [ Laughter ] Give us reason to be more optimistic about federal science going forward. It looks like we are in a new dark age. You've got to the Senate as though no political backs have interviewed -- interfered here. Why should we be more optimistic? 
>> I'll try to give a tactful answer. The for many of many states, the federal agency more responsive and trying to use prescribed fire and other things to try and address it. I would say there are many states more progressive than federal agencies and trying to make progress. Utah is doing an incredible job. In the last couple years, it is a whirlwind of difference. People are trying to find was the best answer on how to do this. Not just throw money at it how to use it effectively. The executive board just signed last December on the secretarial order, there are many really good and urgent things in there. I was optimistic to see that. Wasn't sure I was going to come out and it is. It's a very strong call to action. Staunchest one place a federal scientist. There other organizations, timber research station and is a research institute. Is the science organization that have major conservancy. They contribute excellent things to it. It's really that cohesive strategy that calls for all hands, all lands. There's one motto that will help make a difference. Don't get me wrong, it's a currently complicated to try and fix it. Hundred years of fire suppression has led to a great buildup of fuels. I can put my former management hat on and it will take a number of years into fuel treatments and managing well hire in a responsible way to try to accomplish fuel treatments as well. That's what the best science suggests will be necessary to address this. There is a lot of fervor and federal managers, federal scientists, their passionate and trying to help find the right answers. There's a lot of good collaboration. Find those linkages to more effectively combine. There are many partners identified on there and have to work in unity to try and address some of these things. Does a lot of good things taking place there's a lot more than also needs take lace. I hope that helps. 

>> [ Participant comment/question off-mic ]
>> I can answer to specifics. In terms of protecting water resources and watersheds, it goes with those kinds of treatments. In my simple viewpoints, their very difficult trade-offs to look at and I spent two years representing DOI with forceps on talking to EPA about what can we do on the clean air act? It's a real challenge. A lot of regulars don't want any smoke at all. By limiting some of these prescribed fires, you have a big catastrophic fire or you have no control of very limited control what's coming out of it. All these things are connected. Being proactive in dealing with risk the resiliency of these landscapes, everything points to benefits and dealing with it.
>> [ Participant comment/question off-mic ]
>> There are places we need to use I look like mechanical treatments go in first. Their places were prescribed burning is the right technique either. For anyone, you need to try out draw on the best information and expertise to put together a plan. 

>> [ Participant comment/question off-mic ]
>> Let me try and match honesty a tactful list and tactful this. One example, how is your terminology a spatial intelligence. We have a lot of scientists using machine learning as a technique to automate the process of geo-rectifying imagery, classifying it to speed up the process. They use machine language in those specific things to speeded up and improve delivery time. Regarding people making decisions you may not consider to be the best. We are not a policy agency. We reduce peer review objective information data and tools and try to put that end of the decision makers and foster access to that. However we can. Social scientist help bring people together and decision-making processes that hopefully people go in a good direction. We are not the regulars. We just try to provide information but there's a lot of others I can help bring those discussions to the table. 

>> [ Participant comment/question off-mic ]
>> That's a fun question. When I was a grad student, I first encountered prescribed burning. It was a Park service. I thought that was pretty wild the people going out and setting fires. For express purposes and objectives. Park services has been pretty proactive in how to use fire in natural and management oriented ways. My understanding of the parks and I know some FMO and leadership and they have tried to where ever they could used prescribed burning to improve the resiliency of those areas. That has been borne out with scientific studies, borne out that things like the rimfire armor fire would have been far better or worse to the parks if not for the work they did. 
>> With the other question, we are just talking about the trade-off of risk. That's one of those big issues, we will never -- it does not appear based upon the information we have that U.S. will be able to use prescribed fuel and achievements alone to get out of the situation we are in. And how, the question becomes how to use wildland, while fires to better accomplish management objectives and reduce teacher fire risks. I think will be able to do a study, of those acres, how much that burned through wildfire have benefit? Certainly there is a proportion that have very disastrous effects. Is a real interesting challenge associated with dealing with risk of diversity and responsibly addressing wildfires. When a fire occurs, everyone wants to put the fire out as quickly as possible. There is a cost for that. It's not just dollars. This was to people who respond. Who bears that risk? And how are organization structured to do that? Some of the studies and others have started doing, how to manage that risk across organizations and how do people make decisions? The social economics part is critically important understanding how decisions are made and how your question can be better addressed. So national wire policy in 2009 when they first encouraged the use of wildfire to achieve resource objectives. Has been around for a while. It's interesting looking back through history and through the decades how that question has been addressed. It's challenging. Being a commander or agency administrator, there were 3000 acre fires that burned up a vehicle and had negative effects. You have to figure out how much of that responsibility are you willing to accept to be proactive for your risk down the road. Those are tough trade-offs. 
>> We will take one last question and then wrap up.
>> [ Participant comment/question off-mic ]
>> Of course it was accurate. Let me try and push that out. This the ability to project. Gets back to weather prediction models and actually the ability to consider micro weather factors tied with the fire itself. Right now, the national interagency fire Center produces fire potential Outlook that goes four months in advance. What you can really predict from those working on those predictions, there things you can predict a few days out based upon weather systems going through and that's what they produce the red flag warnings. There more macro scale things based upon seasonal changes in fuel, is there an El Niño driving weather systems and prevailing jot and weather conditions and how long will that last into the future based upon what you know of weather patterns. 
>> That was probably an oversimplified statement that I made. The drive is ever to produce more accurate and precise predictions of what could take place. 
>> A new fair competition a model was created in San Diego. Have you heard about that?? I saw some things on it about a month ago. 
>> It is a new article that came out Monday about a computer that can accurately predict the spread of wildfire and have competitions and minutes. What is your opinion on that? 
>> All models are worth looking at. It depends upon what you mean by accurate and precise. What data do you need to feed it? I've seen some things on wire fire and there's lots look up. You have to be a skeptic. You have to test out make sure whatever model you use meets the express purpose and need you have for the decisions you need. Your ability to use that are based on those trade-offs of risk. With the over under predicts has a big impact no matter what. Whether it's putting people in jeopardy on firefighting crews or communities you have to decide whether to evacuate because those processes have risk as well as potential for fire to impact them. 
>> Thank you. [ Applause ] 
>> Come next month to see it. 
>>[ Event Concluded ]