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Open AccessArticle

Firefighter Observations of “Surprising” Fire Behavior in Mountain Pine Beetle-Attacked Lodgepole Pine Forests

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Boise District, Bureau of Land Management, 3948 South Development Avenue, Boise, ID 83705, USA
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Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, Campus Delivery 1472, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-14, USA
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Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Campus Delivery 1472, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1472, USA
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Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Campus Delivery 1480, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1480, USA
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Wild Rose Fire Behaviour, 180 – 50434 Range Road 232, Leduc County, AB T4X 0L1, Canada
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 May 2019 / Revised: 13 June 2019 / Accepted: 15 June 2019 / Published: 18 June 2019
The recent mountain pine beetle outbreak affecting lodgepole pine forests in the Rocky Mountains has created a novel fire environment for wildland firefighters. This paper presents results from an examination of firefighters’ observations of fire behavior in post-outbreak lodgepole pine forests, with a focus on what they considered surprising from a fire behavior standpoint and how this in turn affected their suppression tactics. The surprises in fire behavior experienced by firefighters during the red phase of post-outbreak forests included an elevated level of fire spread and intensity under moderate weather and fuel moisture conditions, increased spotting, and faster surface-to-crown fire transitions with limited or no ladder fuels. Unexpectedly, during the gray phase in mountain pine beetle-attacked stands, crown ignition and crown fire propagation was observed for short periods of time. Firefighters are now more likely to expect to see active fire behavior in nearly all fire weather and fuel moisture conditions, not just under critically dry and windy situations, and across all mountain pine beetle attack phases, not just the red phase. Firefighters changed their suppression tactics by adopting indirect methods due to the potential fire behavior and tree-fall hazards associated with mountain pine beetle-attacked lodgepole pine forests. View Full-Text
Keywords: case study; Colorado; crown fire; firefighter safety; firefighting; fire environment; fire weather; spotting; social science research; wildland fuels; Wyoming case study; Colorado; crown fire; firefighter safety; firefighting; fire environment; fire weather; spotting; social science research; wildland fuels; Wyoming
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Moriarty, K.; Cheng, A.S.; Hoffman, C.M.; Cottrell, S.P.; Alexander, M.E. Firefighter Observations of “Surprising” Fire Behavior in Mountain Pine Beetle-Attacked Lodgepole Pine Forests. Fire 2019, 2, 34.

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