Frequently Asked Questions for Fuels Managers

How do I plan a fuels project?

Content coming soon

What can IFTDSS do for me?

“There are so many models available, I don’t know which one to use for my project, let alone have time to learn how to use it.”

 If you’ve uttered these words, IFTDSS (Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System) may be your solution. IFTDSS has been developed for fuels treatment specialists by fuels treatment specialists.

 IFTDSS is a web-based program that organizes previously existing and newly developed fire and fuels software applications to make fuels treatment planning and analysis more efficient and effective.

 What are the benefits of IFTDSS?

•Provides a single portal for access to several sources of data and models for fuels treatment planning
•Assists you in prescribed burn planning and burn plan development
•Assists you in developing wildfire hazard analysis/risk assessments across a landscape of interest
•Reduces or eliminates the amount of time you need to spend learning new interfaces and transforming data
•Allows you to efficiently reuse and share your work products
•Provides a consistent analysis framework for all users.

 Where do I start?
IFTDSS Home
A brief overview of IFTDSS
Introduction to IFTDSS pre-recorded webinar
Background Information

What are other fuels specialists doing in my region?

Navigate to your region of interest on the Joint Fire Science’s Knowledge Exchange Network Homepage:
http://www.firescience.gov/jfsp_consortia.cfm 

Other places where you can learn more about what is going on in your region: You can check your state’s Prescribed Fire Council website or Visit the Fire Learning Networks

Or search for information related to your region on www.wildfirelessons.net

How can I become qualified as a prescribed fire burn boss?

There are 3 levels to the Prescribed Fire Burn Boss (RXB) qualification. Each level allows you to be responsible for a corresponding complexity of prescribed fire.

RXB1 – High complexity prescribed fires
RXB2 – Moderate complexity prescribed fires
RXB3 – Low complexity prescribed fires

You need a minimum level of fire experience to begin working on prescribed fire qualifications. Look through the Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide (PMS 310-1) and the Forest Service Fire & Aviation Qualification Guide (FSFAQG) to determine what qualifications and training are necessary to start working on, and to complete, any of the RXB position taskbooks (PTBs).

You’ll need training opportunities on prescribed fires to complete your taskbook. Work with your supervisor to create these opportunities. If opportunities don’t exist on your home unit, try to obtain opportunities elsewhere. For example:

National Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center
The Nature Conservancy Training Exchange

Helpful Links:
Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide (PMS 310-1)
Forest Service Fire & Aviation Qualification Guide (FSFAQG)
RXB3 Position Taskbook
RXB1 & 2 Position Taskbook
Competencies and behaviors associated with RXB1&2 positions

What kind of research exists for fuels management?

There are several great sources of information on fuels management research available to practitioners.  For practical information with direct management applications, the Joint Fire Sciences Fire Exchange Network provides information in a variety of formats including publications, recorded webinars, newsletters, and the ability to “ask an expert”.  There is a Network for each geographic region of the entire United States.  The Joint Fire Sciences program also has a number of synthesis publications that combine relevant information into one publication.  The US Forest Service also maintains a searchable research databases which allow multiple keyword searches.  Additionally, web searches in Google Scholar can yield useful results.  Some peer reviewed journal sites require membership to completely view or download an article but the vast majority of field oriented literature is readily available with a brief web search.

Joint Fire Science’s Knowledge Exchange Network Homepage: http://www.firescience.gov/jfsp_consortia.cfm

fire_exchang_network.png

Joint Fire Science’s Syntheses Publications website: https://www.firescience.gov/JFSP_publications.cfm#tab5

US Forest Service Publications and Digital Library
http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/publications/
http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/
http://usfsdc.vtls.com:4080/vital/access/manager/Advanced

Google Scholar
http://scholar.google.com/

Tall Timbers Research Station E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database
https://www.frames.gov/search/ttrs/?q2=trees&button2=Search

How can I become a fuels specialist?

There are many paths that can lead you to becoming a fuels specialist. Each path will vary based on previous experience, desired goals, and specifics within each agency.

Within the fuels career track there are several position descriptions (i.e., fuels tech, fuels specialist, fuels planner, prescribed fire specialist), with each position having its own requirements for operational qualifications, education and general skill sets.

In general, skills in the following areas will benefit you in seeking these positions:

•GIS
•Fuels and Fire monitoring
•Rx Planning & Implementation
•Fire experience

How do I gain these skills?

•Take a look at USAJobs for fuels positions you’re interested in (it doesn’t matter the location, you just want the specifics of the position) and start to gather an idea of the skills necessary to perform the listed duties.
•Obtain a position description, either online or from Human Resources, as another helpful tool to learn more about the desired skill set for a particular position.
•Refer to Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) or Forest Service-IFPM for specific qualifications necessary for each position.
•Talk to individuals in the positions you want to work toward. What suggestions do they have for you based on your background and career objectives?
•Volunteer or seek detail opportunities to gain more experience.
•Check out the Training & Education pages on this site for opportunities to gain or improve upon your existing skill set.

How can I write better goals and objectives?

According to Webster’s dictionary, management is defined as the “judicious use of means to accomplish an end.”  Therefore, a prerequisite of sound management is identification of the desired end conditions, i.e., setting objectives.  Most natural resource organizations and agencies have basic goals that reflect their philosophical position and direction.   These might be related to maintaining biological diversity or managing specific wildlife populations.   These goals are useful but they do not provide a clear path to the desired end condition of a management effort.  Especially when it comes to the use of fire, they need to be refined into specific and workable objectives.

Goals and objectives must be developed, articulated, and verified early in the projecting planning if they are to have any chance of being realized.  The entire management effort is affected by the choice of objectives, and all subsequent decisions should reflect the objectives.  Requiring that goals and objectives be considered early forces biologists and decision makers to state which resources are of interest.  Failure to state objectives early in the planning process can lead to misdirected efforts and inefficient use of time and personnel.
 

Definitions: 

Goals are broad statements reflecting general land use decisions or targets over relatively large areas or long periods of time. 

Objectives are statements that identify specific change resulting from a single treatment.

It may help to think of objectives as the pathways leading to your goal.

Goals for land management units tend to be readily available from high level planning documents such as Forest Plans, Species Recovery Plans, Fire Management Plans, or even enabling legislation.  Below is an easy to remember mnemonic for developing good objectives that will not only support your goal but will also lend themselves to monitoring in order to evaluate if goals are truly being met. 

Objectives need to be S-M-A-R-T

 

  •       Specific
  •       Measurable
  •       Achievable
  •       Relevant
  •       Time-bound

 

Below are three sets of example goals and objectives with relation to fire.
 
1. Example Goals from Land Management Plans
  • Reduce Hazardous Fuels
  • Reduce Shrubs
  • Promote Native Grasses

Example corresponding S-M-A-R-T Objectives:

  • Reduce 1hr fuel loads by >50% as measured immediately post-burn
  • Reduce live woody shrubs by >50% as measured within one year post-burn
  • Increase grass cover to greater than 40% within five years post-burn
2. Example Goals from Land Management Plans

Improve scrub jay habitat by:

  • Maintaining predator nesting trees
  • Decreasing competing mid-story woody vegetation
  • Increase proportion of bare sand

Example corresponding S-M-A-R-T Objectives:

  • Limit mortality of overstory pine to 10% as measured 1 year post-burn.
  • Reduce % cover of woody shrubs as measured 1 year post-burn.
  • Increase % cover of bare sand as measured immediately postburn

 

3. Example Goals from Land Management Plans
  • Maintain fire frequency
  • Minimize exotics invasion

Example corresponding S-M-A-R-T Objectives:

  • Ensure that an average of 30% of the prairie ecosystem burns annually as calculated based on a 3 year running average.
  • Reduce % cover of exotic species as measured 6 months post-burn

You can see that in each case, the objectives not only directly support the goals, but they also set the stage for a monitoring program to evaluate goal achievement.  See the link for “What sort of post burn monitoring should I do?” for additional information. 

Links to more information:

What sort of post-burn monitoring should I do?

Post burn monitoring is critical for ensuring that project and/or treatment goals and objectives have been met.  It is a fundamental part of what is called the adaptive management cycle which is an iterative feedback loop that incorporates knowledge to better inform management practices in the future.  Effective monitoring is highly dependent upon well-defined objectives.  Monitoring efforts are often hampered by limited staff time, funds, and expertise.   A variety of post burn monitoring methods and levels of intensity exist.  Before starting a post burn monitoring program, make sure that you have well defined objectives to anchor from and that the monitoring you choose is consistent with the resources you have to implement the monitoring program.  

Fire monitoring is the systematic process of collecting and recording biophysical data (e.g. fuels, weather, fire behavior, smoke) and immediate post-treatment effects information in order to provide a basis for evaluating and adjusting fire programs.  Successful monitoring will inform future management through the incorporate of knowledge over time.

adm_cycle.png

The following are some key questions to ask as you evaluate what type of monitoring is appropriate for your program:

  • What is my agency or unit’s policy with regard to post burn monitoring?
    • Some organizations have very specific language with regards to monitoring requirements while others either have vague language or are silent on the topic.  It is good to know up front what expectations exist.  
  • What variables are identified in the project goals and will their measurement provide the information needed to evaluate success? In other words, do the objectives provide you specific marching orders in terms of what fire effects are desired over what time frame?
    • This is a critical first step which may well send you or the project planner back to the drawing board with regard to goals and objectives.  If they are not well articulated, the monitoring effort could potentially be wasted time.
    • Objectives need to meet the following S_M_A_R_T criteria:  Specific, Measurable, achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.  (see the “How can I write better goals and Objectives” link  for further information)
    • One thing to keep in mind is that one specific treatment may be part of a project that is broader over time and space than this one treatment.  In this case, monitoring of the entire project must be considered and each specific treatment may not need the same level or intensity of monitoring.
  • Which are the best indicators for the specific objective being asked?
    • For example a treatment goal might be to reduce expected fire behavior under certain conditions.  While you cannot necessarily actually measure post treatment flame length, you can measure pre and post treatment fuel loading and subsequently model expected fire behavior pre and post treatment.  However, keep in mind that fire behavior modelling is not an exact science and fuel loading tends to be highly variable.  It might be best to zero in on a specific fuel bed parameter associated with the fire behavior of concern.  For example, for reduced spread rates shoot for reducing and monitoring 1 hour fuel load.  Similarly, for reduced crown fire potential, target your objectives and monitoring on ladder fuels or “height to live crown base”.
    • Another example would be that if you are trying to improve habitat for a certain species, rather than measure that species population, perhaps you can measure an  environmental attribute that is a key indicator for suitability of habitat for that species (for example snag density for a certain bird population).  Also keep in mind that it might be more suitable to monitor your attribute, in this case snag density, 2 years post-burn rather than immediately post burn to allow time for delayed mortality to occur.  Be sure to articulate this to managers up front as often they want the monitoring results “yesterday.”
  • Will your staff have the time and expertise to successfully conduct this monitoring?
    • Once you have tentatively selected variables what to monitor, research existing methods for collecting, storing, and analyzing the type of data.  Create a basic work plan and try to articulate specifics regarding time and resources needed as well as knowledge and skills.  Armed with this information you can best determine if you can conduct this monitoring in house, need outside assistance, or need to re-visit with the project planners to discuss the monitoring plan capabilities in more detail.



How do I write a prescribed fire plan?

Once signed, a prescribed fire plan, or burn plan, is a legally binding document stating what conditions under which you will burn to achieve your stated objectives. There are several tools to help you through the process.

One place to start is by reviewing examples of various burn plans that have already been written. This will give you an idea of the different ways programs approach their burn plan creation.  You can view examples of prescribed fire plans at the Southwest Fire Science Consortium site, or obtain one from your home unit.

Here are some helpful resources to get you started:

This NWCG course introduces you to the prescribed fire plan process, allowing you to create a prescribed fire plan in a group setting. Check with your training officer for local offerings, or take a look at the National Wildland Fire Training site.

This guide will walk you through every step of writing a burn plan, ensuring you cover all the necessary details. This includes a standard template to include all the necessary elements of a burn plan.

IFTDSS (Interagency Fuel Treatment Decision Support System)
IFTDSS provides a single portal for access to several sources of fire and fuels data and models to make fuels treatment planning and analysis more efficient and effective.
•Download BehavePlus to help you develop your prescription.The program is free and the user’s manual is provided online at this site as well.
•Seek out On-The-Job training or detail opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions for Fire Planners

How can I find out more about the NEPA Process?

What needs to be in my FMP?

Guidance from the 2014 Interagency Standards  for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations: fire management planning will reflect interagency and intergovernmental considerations. Individual federal agencies may develop distinctive but compatible planning products that result from their agency planning process.

*Every area with burnable vegetation must have an approved fire management Plan (FMP). FMPs are strategic plans that define a program to manage fuels as well as planned and unplanned ignitions based on the area’s approved Land or Resource Management Plan (L/RMP). FMPs must provide for firefighter and public safety; include fire management strategies and tactics; address values to be protected and public health issues; and be consistent with resource management objectives, activities of the area, and environmental laws and regulations.

Each agency has its own content requirement for FMPs (Coming soon, early 2015)

Department of Agriculture
U.S. Forest Service

Department of Interior 

DOI Policy Memorandum

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Bureau of Land Management

  • Guidance

National Park Service

  • Guidance

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

  • Guidance
Each agency incorporates the NEPA planning process differently with regard to Fire Management Plans; please see agency specific guidance for further information. See the Planning Toolbox.

What Can IFTDSS Do For Me?

“There are so many models available, I don’t know which one to use for my project, let alone have time to learn how to use it.”

If you’ve uttered these words, IFTDSS (Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System) may be your solution. IFTDSS has been developed for fuels treatment specialists by fuels treatment specialists.

IFTDSS is a web-based program that organizes previously existing and newly developed fire and fuels software applications to make fuels treatment planning and analysis more efficient and effective.

What are the benefits of IFTDSS?

•Provides a single portal for access to several sources of data and models for fuels treatment planning
•Assists you in prescribed burn planning and burn plan development
•Assists you in developing wildfire hazard analysis/risk assessments across a landscape of interest
•Reduces or eliminates the amount of time you need to spend learning new interfaces and transforming data
•Allows you to efficiently reuse and share your work products
•Provides a consistent analysis framework for all users.

Where do I start?

IFTDSS Home

A brief overview of IFTDSS

Introduction to IFTDSS pre-recorded webinar

Background Information

Where can I find the right Smoke modeling tool?

How can I write better goals and objectives?

According to Webster’s dictionary, management is defined as the “judicious use of means to accomplish an end.”  Therefore, a prerequisite of sound management is identification of the desired end conditions, i.e., setting objectives.  Most natural resource organizations and agencies have basic goals that reflect their philosophical position and direction.   These might be related to maintaining biological diversity or managing specific wildlife populations.   These goals are useful but they do not provide a clear path to the desired end condition of a management effort.  Especially when it comes to the use of fire, they need to be refined into specific and workable objectives.

Goals and objectives must be developed, articulated, and verified early in the projecting planning if they are to have any chance of being realized.  The entire management effort is affected by the choice of objectives, and all subsequent decisions should reflect the objectives.  Requiring that goals and objectives be considered early forces biologists and decision makers to state which resources are of interest.  Failure to state objectives early in the planning process can lead to misdirected efforts and inefficient use of time and personnel.
 

Definitions: 

Goals are broad statements reflecting general land use decisions or targets over relatively large areas or long periods of time. 

Objectives are statements that identify specific change resulting from a single treatment.

It may help to think of objectives as the pathways leading to your goal.

Goals for land management units tend to be readily available from high level planning documents such as Forest Plans, Species Recovery Plans, Fire Management Plans, or even enabling legislation.  Below is an easy to remember mnemonic for developing good objectives that will not only support your goal but will also lend themselves to monitoring in order to evaluate if goals are truly being met. 

Objectives need to be S-M-A-R-T

 

  •       Specific
  •       Measurable
  •       Achievable
  •       Relevant
  •       Time-bound

 

Below are three sets of example goals and objectives with relation to fire.
 
1. Example Goals from Land Management Plans
  • Reduce Hazardous Fuels
  • Reduce Shrubs
  • Promote Native Grasses

Example corresponding S-M-A-R-T Objectives:

  • Reduce 1hr fuel loads by >50% as measured immediately post-burn
  • Reduce live woody shrubs by >50% as measured within one year post-burn
  • Increase grass cover to greater than 40% within five years post-burn
2. Example Goals from Land Management Plans

Improve scrub jay habitat by:

  • Maintaining predator nesting trees
  • Decreasing competing mid-story woody vegetation
  • Increase proportion of bare sand

Example corresponding S-M-A-R-T Objectives:

  • Limit mortality of overstory pine to 10% as measured 1 year post-burn.
  • Reduce % cover of woody shrubs as measured 1 year post-burn.
  • Increase % cover of bare sand as measured immediately postburn

 

3. Example Goals from Land Management Plans
  • Maintain fire frequency
  • Minimize exotics invasion

Example corresponding S-M-A-R-T Objectives:

  • Ensure that an average of 30% of the prairie ecosystem burns annually as calculated based on a 3 year running average.
  • Reduce % cover of exotic species as measured 6 months post-burn

You can see that in each case, the objectives not only directly support the goals, but they also set the stage for a monitoring program to evaluate goal achievement.  See the link for “What sort of post burn monitoring should I do?” for additional information. 

Links to more information:

I've been given fire planner duties, where do I start?

1-Assess what your unit’s planning needs are: 

2-Assess your ability to provide the required planning products and pursue training in areas where you may be deficient. (link to training pages)

How do fire management plans fit into land use planning?

Land/Resource Management Plans
•What is a L/RMP?
–Description of the vision for your land management unit
–Description of the activities to make vision a reality
–Answers questions like:
•What do we want our landscape to look like in 20, 50, 100 years?
•Can we use fire to get there?
–Different names for different agencies’ L/RMPs
  • FS: Forest Plan
  • BLM: Resource Management Plan
  • NPS: General Management Plan
  • FWS: Comprehensive Conservation Plan
  • BIA: Forest Management Plan
 
How does National Environmental Policy Act compliance fit in?
•NEPA compliance required for L/RMPs
–L/RMPs make decisions about the landscape
•Additional NEPA compliance may be required for FMPs
–Depends on level of detail in L/RMP on fire management activities
•USFS: no additional NEPA required for FMPs
•BLM, BIA, FWS: depends on unit
•NPS: FMPs have separate NEPA compliance document
 
Moving from the L/RMP to the FMP
fmp.png
 
 
Forest Service Example:
fsexample.PNG
 
DOI Example:
doiexample.PNG
 
 

What do I need to know about spatial fire planning?

Coming soon.