The official blog of the Joint Fire Science Program

The official blog of, the Interagency Joint Fire Science Program.

September 25, 2012

When New Fire Meets Old Fire

When New Fire Meets Old Fire - 

Thoughts on reburns, plus our recent round-up of science on the subject

My family drove over to the Tetons and Yellowstone for a raft trip on the Snake River and some camping recently.  Smoke filled the skies from Boise to Wyoming.  It looked much like the smog in the Los Angeles Basin of the 1970’s. On our final day at Teton National Park you could not see the mountains, but you could look directly at the red morning sun.
Yellowstone Reborn
It was flashback time for me as I recalled working the 1988 Fan Fire in the northwest corner of Yellowstone.  Every afternoon the wind came up strong out of the west and the daily crown fire ensued, especially on the North Fork Fire, near West Yellowstone.  

Almost a quarter of a century later, we traveled the width of Yellowstone witnessing both the extent of the 1988 conflagration and the renewal of the current forest. By car, the journey across Yellowstone is some 65 miles and can take a couple of hours to traverse. By fire, in 1988, that journey took from July into early September when rain and snow brought the flames back to the ground - although they burned into November awaiting winter’s white blanket.  

While we drove through the park, I wondered what would happen if today’s fires collided with previous conflagrations such as Yellowstone?  Do the old fires alter the direction, intensity, or severity of today’s blazes?Would the older fires re-burn with new found vigor or be constrained by past fire history?

As fires continue to burn across the West this fall, many are overlapping terrain that burned previously via wildland fire, prescribed fire, or both -  in the recent or distant past. This week we bring you some science to shine a bit of light on the complexities that determine what happens when fire meets fire.

Characterizing Fire-on-Fire Interactions in Three Large Wilderness Areas by authors Casey C. Teske, Carl A. Seielstad, and LLoyd P. Queen.

Interactions Among Wildland Fires in a Long-established Sierra Nevada Natural Fire Area, by authors  B.M. Collins, J.D. Miller, A.E. Thode, M. Kelly, J.W. van Wagtendonk, and S.L. Stephens.

Factors Associated with Crown Damage Following Recurring Mixed-severity Wildfires and Post-fire Management in Southwestern Oregon, by authors J.R Thompson and B.A. Spies.
Reburns in the news in Idaho  where Elizabeth Reinhardt, U.S Forest Service assistant director for fire ecology and fuels, talks about how Old Burns Slow New Fires Across Idaho. 

Enjoy the information. Please contribute your experience, impressions, and links to more reburn science!

Keep smilin’,

Tim Swedberg
Joint Fire Science Program
Director of Communications