USDA Forest Service

North Central Research Station


North Central Research Station
1992 Folwell Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108

(651) 649-5000

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service., the U.S. government's official web portal.

Introducing the Northern Research Station

The North Central Research Station and the Northeastern Research Station have joined to form the Northern Research Station. Our 20-state region spans the Midwest from Minnesota to Missouri and the Northeast from Maine to Maryland.

Our Research Programs in the National Fire Plan 2000

Issue - Protecting communities from wildfire
Most people don't think of the Midwest as a fire-prone area, yet every year about 9,000 wildfires occur in the region-nearly all human-caused. Ask Midwesterners about big fires, and they will name Peshtigo, Cloquet, and Hinckley. These historic fires in Wisconsin and Minnesota were some of the largest and most devastating in North America. The potential for ignition, rapid spread, and loss of life and property from catastrophic fire still exists in the Midwest as we have:
  • extensive acreage of fire-prone forests,
  • high fuel loadings from dead and downed trees,
  • increased values at risk-permanent and seasonal homes are embedded within these forests,
  • challenges to fire management coordination due to interspersed patterns of private and public ownership,
  • weekend tourist immigration in the hundreds of thousands to rural forested areas.

These conditions present a compelling need to better understand the interactions among fire, people, and the forests within the region and take appropriate measures and safeguards to reduce risks to communities.

Wildfire in jack pine

Our Contribution -
As part of the National Fire Plan, we will provide land managers with current fuel load information and fire weather predictions, modify and improve decision tools to be more effective in fire prevention and fuel management, and facilitate community fire preparedness and public understanding and acceptance of fire management practices.

Fuels Monitoring
Systematic assessments of fuel loading and fire risk across all forests, nationwide, do not exist. Our goal is to collect such data so that it may be used to assess fuel conditions, formulate fire and fuels management policy, and gauge the effectiveness of such policies.

Fire Weather Dynamics
We are working on refining current weather models to improve forecasts of fire weather and smoke transport. An increased level of forecast accuracy allows fire managers to place resources where they are critically needed and improves information for firefighter safety.

Decision Analysis Tools
Our scientists are exploring what factors within natural ecosystems affect fire risk. This information can then be linked with information on where people live to create maps indicating what geographic areas are most vulnerable to wildfire damage.

Other efforts are directed at learning when and where fuel reduction efforts should be applied to obtain the greatest fire risk reductions at the lowest cost and determining the ecological and social consequences of these treatments.

Community Preparedness and Interactions
We are studying the aesthetic impact and social acceptability of fire management restoration and treatments applied after the fire has been controlled. With this information managers can more effectively communicate with people about fire and fire management treatments to minimize controversies and strengthen constituencies.

We are investigating how land management and land use changes affect the impact of fire on the human and ecological communities forming the landscape mosaic. Land managers will understand how vegetation management and human community development can be used to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire.

What strategies can communities adopt to increase the effectiveness of fire management programs for different types of communities and landscapes. In a series of case studies, researchers will examine the successful actions and preparations of communities who have lived through catastrophic fires.


NCRS Fire Plan 2000 Funded Research Proposals


USDA Forest Service - North Central Research Station
Last Modified: Friday, 14 February 2003

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