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STANDFIRE: an IFT-DSS module for spatially explicit, 3D fuel treatment analysis

Author(s): Russell A. Parsons, Lucas Wells, F. Pimont, William Matt Jolly, Rodman Linn, William E. Mell
Year Published: 2016

Managers are increasingly called upon to implement fuel treatments to alter potential fire behavior, in order to mitigate threats to firefighters and communities, or to maintain or restore healthy ecosystems. While some case studies have shown positive results, many questions remain about how effective certain kinds of fuel treatments are, how long they remain effective, and under what conditions they will work. Because real world fuel treatments are only actually tested when faced with a fire, modeling plays a key role in evaluating the potential effectiveness of fuel treatments. In the United States, most detailed, stand scale fuel treatment analysis is conducted with the Fire and Fuels Extension of the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FFE-FVS), which links tree growth models to biomass and simple fire calculations. However, assumptions of homogeneous and continuous fuels, and lack of spatial or mechanistic detail in the underlying fire modeling within FFE-FVS and other widely used fire models greatly limits their application to fuels treatments, as well as to fuel changes arising from disturbance processes such as beetle outbreaks or windthrow events. In recent years, 3D dynamic, physics-based fire behavior models have emerged which model fire with much greater detail and which can thus more robustly capture effects of fuel treatments on fire behavior. While these models have already played a key role in advancing our understanding of numerous aspects of fire behavior, they have been largely inaccessible for broader use due to the complexity involved in developing fuels inputs.

The STANDFIRE project was funded by the JFSP to develop a prototype modeling system that could link widely available fuels data from FFE-FVS to physics-based fire models, providing an alternative approach for calculating fire behavior at stand scales. The objectives of the project were: 1) to develop and analyze a new approach for stand-scale fire behavior analysis, 2) to investigate metrics for evaluating fuel treatment effectiveness and 3) to provide a new platform for fire science development. The original FON required that new systems developed would be ‘command line’ programs that could be integrated into a larger system, such as IFT-DSS.

Our project successfully developed STANDFIRE, a prototype fuel and fire modeling system. This open source software, developed in python and Java, links a forest growth model (FVS) through a state-of-the-art fuel modeling system (FuelManager) to two independent physics-based fire models, WFDS and FIRETEC. STANDFIRE brings a number of capabilities to the table, each with significant potential benefit. First, STANDFIRE provides a pathway for researchers and managers to use real world forest inventory and fuels data in dynamic, 3D fire simulations, opening up new ways to evaluate fuel treatment effectiveness. Second, STANDFIRE can be used to produce input files for both WFDS and FIRETEC using the same fuels, opening the door for collaborative interaction between these two modelling groups towards further refinement in physics-based fire modelling. Third, STANDFIRE offers a platform within which further development can be carried out, allowing testing and continuing refinement of fire modeling as time goes on. Finally, STANDFIRE makes physics-based fire modeling accessible to a much wider pool of potential users. With executables for Windows and Linux platforms and very simple beginner interfaces, less technical users will be able to carry out example simulations using the test data provided or with their own data. Meanwhile, more technical users, such as other researchers and developers, can use the open source code repository and online documentation to work collaboratively towards future science development. This open source code base is built with a strong modular programming architecture and command line operability that should make it feasible to incorporate STANDFIRE into larger systems. In 2016, two journal articles were published in peer reviewed journals. The first peer reviewed paper, Pimont et al 2016. Environmental Modelling & Software, 80, pp.225-244., details the FuelManager software, a key component in STANDFIRE. STANDFIRE builds on FuelManager, extending its application to a large number of US forest species through links with FVS, and by connecting it to the WFDS fire model. The second paper, Jolly et al 2016. Forest Ecology and Management 373 (2016): 167-178., represents fundamental science work linking shifts in live fuel moisture and chemical composition to flammability and fire through bench scale experiments and physics-based simulation modeling at stand scales carried out with the FIRETEC model.

Citation: Parsons, Russell A.; Wells, Lucas; Pimont, Francois; Jolly, W. Matt; Linn, Rodman R.; Mell, William E. 2016. STANDFIRE: an IFT-DSS module for spatially explicit, 3D fuel treatment analysis - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program. JFSP Project No.12-1-03-30. Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. 16 p.
Topic(s): Fuel Treatments & Prescriptions
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 15584
FRAMES RCS number: 23172
Record updated: Oct 19, 2017