The Northwest and Alaska Fire Research Clearinghouse
 The Northwest and Alaska Fire Research Clearinghouse

www.fs.fed.us/pnw/fera/firehouse 

Fire Effects Tradeoff Model (FETM)
The Fire Effects Tradeoff Model (FETM) is a disturbance effects model designed to simulate the tradeoffs between alternative land management practices over long periods of time (up to 300 years) and under diverse environmental conditions, natural fire regimes, and fuel and fire management strategies. At its core, FETM is a vegetation dynamics model that simulates changes in vegetation composition over time in response to various human-caused and natural disturbances. Examples of disturbances are: timber harvest, mechanical fuel treatments, prescribed fire, wildland fire, wind throw, insects, disease, as well as natural succession. FETM has been designed to meet the needs of land management planners, fire planners, air quality specialists, and other resource specialists seeking a model to quantitatively assess the long-term consequences of alternative land management practices. Specifically, the model may be used to: 1) assess the long-term impacts of human-caused and natural disturbances on ecosystems, including the long-term changes in vegetation composition, fuel loading, and wildland fire effects; 2) assist fuel specialists in identifying specific vegetation types to target for fuel reduction; 3) support fire planning and budgeting decisions by demonstrating the long-term costs and benefits of alternative fuel treatment and fire suppression programs; and 4) identify the economic and environmental effects and tradeoffs of fuel treatment alternatives and wildland fire. Some of the outputs from FETM that were designed to achieve these objectives include: 1) fuel treatment acres; 2) wildland fire acres by fire intensity level; 3) vegetation composition; 4) pollutant emissions for up to seven different pollutant species; 5) expected wildland fire size in each of the four National Fire Danger Rating System fire weather classes: low, moderate, high, and extreme; and 6) net present value analysis of wildfire and prescribed fire treatment.

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FETM Application: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
In 2001, FETM was applied on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of the Superior National Forest, Minnesota, as part of a Fuel Treatment Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). On July 4, 1999, a storm with wind speeds in excess of 90 mph swept through the BWCAW, blowing down the trees on an area of about 350,000 acres. Surface fuel loadings in the blown-down areas were 5 to 10 times higher than before the storm. The elevated fuel loadings pose a substantially higher risk of wildfires in the area. The Forest Service sought to ameliorate that risk with a program for reducing fuels through the use of prescribed fire. FETM was selected as the landscape disturbance model for evaluating five different fuel treatment alternatives in the BWCAW Fuel Treatment EIS. FETM showed the tradeoff between the various fuel treatment alternatives in terms of the total number of wildfire acres burned annually and annual smoke emissions from both wildfire and prescribed fire.

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FETM Application: Angeles National Forest, California
FETM was applied on a portion of the Angeles National Forest (ANF). The vegetation of the ANF is predominantly chaparral; the fuel treatment scenarios comprise four levels of prescribed burning in northern mixed chaparral, the most common chaparral type. The scenarios ranged from zero to 92 percent of the available northern mixed chaparral acres treated per decade. One application of FETM was to evaluate the economic tradeoffs of three fire protection strategies, including: 1) high suppression / no prescribed fire treatment; 2) high suppression / low prescribed fire treatment; and 3) low suppression / high prescribed fire treatment. The results indicated that the use of prescribed fire reduced the total annual wildfire acres burned considerably. However, the total costs of fuel treatment, resource loss and suppression costs were similar (within 2 percent of each other). This result was mainly due to a tradeoff between fire suppression costs and fuel treatment costs. The second application was to demonstrate FETM's capability in evaluating the changes in wildfire acres burned and smoke emissions following alternative prescribed burning strategies. The different fuel treatment strategies consisted of different levels of prescribed burning in Northern mixed chaparral: 1) zero acres per year, 2) 7,500 acres per year, 3) 15,000 acres per year, and 4) 30,000 acres per year. Annual wildfire acreage decreased with increasing prescribed fire acreage, but stabilized at 15,000 prescribed fire acres per year. As prescribed fire acreage increased, the fuel loading of northern mixed chaparral shifted to lower fuel loading classes. Finally, as prescribed fire acreage increased, PM2.5 emissions from wildfire decreased due to a decrease in wildfire acreage and average fuel loading. However, total PM2.5 emission increased due to emissions from prescribed fire.

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FETM Application: Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
A modeling analysis was undertaken to explore the long-term impacts of the white spruce (die-back on vegetation cover and wildfire behavior on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. During the 1990’s a significant portion of the white spruce stands were killed by infestation with the spruce bark beetle. The presence of extensive areas of dead white spruce can have significant impacts on the future distribution of vegetation types. Moreover, increased dead and down woody debris on the forest floor is believed to increase the risk of large-scale wildfires. Vegetation and wildfire dynamics were simulated over a 100-year period using FETM. A geographic information system based vegetation coverage totaling approximately 1 million acres was used to describe the initial vegetation distribution. Vegetation types were classified by species, successional stage and stand density. Simulations were run for two analysis areas, the developed coastal strip (a Critical Fire Management Zone), and the interior of the peninsula (Full, Modified and Limited Fire Management Zones). The fire frequencies (mostly human caused) in the coastal and interior zones were ~11 and 0.8 fire starts per 105 acres per year, respectively. Modeled natural disturbances included succession, browsing by ungulates, spruce bark beetle mortality in white spruce, and wildland fire. Forest management practices included in the simulations were: an ecosystem broadcast burn, and salvage logging of white spruce with and without replanting of white spruce. The initial results indicated that application of the various fuel treatments decreased the total wildfire acreage and PM10 emissions in the coastal area, but had little effect in the interior areas. In both areas the white spruce acreage increased during the first 20 years due to fuel treatments, but then gradually declined. The acres of grass and hardwood vegetation types increased dramatically over time, as many beetle-killed areas of white spruce do not grown back as white spruce unless planting occurs.

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Comments/suggestions?Last updated: 01/31/2007
FIREHouse is a collaboration between the Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team (FERA) of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory; the University of Washington; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management – Alaska Fire Service; the US Fish and Wildlife Service; and the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII). The NBII is a broad, collaborative program that provides increased access to data and information on the nation’s biological resources. Funding for FIREHouse has been provided by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) and NBII. FIREHouse is coordinating efforts with the Fire Research and Management Exchange System (FRAMES) project team. Content on FIREHouse will provide substantial contributions to the Northwest Fire Science Portal and the Alaska Fire Science Portal.
 
Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Seattle, WA USDA Forest Service Fire Research and Management Exchange System (FRAMES)    National Biological Information Infrastructure
College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
National Park Service Alaska Fire Service US Fish & Wildlife Service