Editor's Choice Articles

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to readers, or important in the respective research area.The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.

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Article
Modern Pyromes: Biogeographical Patterns of Fire Characteristics across the Contiguous United States
Fire 2022, 5(4), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire5040095 - 10 Jul 2022
Viewed by 1219
Abstract
In recent decades, wildfires in many areas of the United States (U.S.) have become larger and more frequent with increasing anthropogenic pressure, including interactions between climate, land-use change, and human ignitions. We aimed to characterize the spatiotemporal patterns of contemporary fire characteristics across [...] Read more.
In recent decades, wildfires in many areas of the United States (U.S.) have become larger and more frequent with increasing anthropogenic pressure, including interactions between climate, land-use change, and human ignitions. We aimed to characterize the spatiotemporal patterns of contemporary fire characteristics across the contiguous United States (CONUS). We derived fire variables based on frequency, fire radiative power (FRP), event size, burned area, and season length from satellite-derived fire products and a government records database on a 50 km grid (1984–2020). We used k-means clustering to create a hierarchical classification scheme of areas with relatively homogeneous fire characteristics, or modern ‘pyromes,’ and report on the model with eight major pyromes. Human ignition pressure provides a key explanation for the East-West patterns of fire characteristics. Human-dominated pyromes (85% mean anthropogenic ignitions), with moderate fire size, area burned, and intensity, covered 59% of CONUS, primarily in the East and East Central. Physically dominated pyromes (47% mean anthropogenic ignitions) characterized by relatively large (average 439 mean annual ha per 50 km pixel) and intense (average 75 mean annual megawatts/pixel) fires occurred in 14% of CONUS, primarily in the West and West Central. The percent of anthropogenic ignitions increased over time in all pyromes (0.5–1.7% annually). Higher fire frequency was related to smaller events and lower FRP, and these relationships were moderated by vegetation, climate, and ignition type. Notably, a spatial mismatch between our derived modern pyromes and both ecoregions and historical fire regimes suggests other major drivers for modern U.S. fire patterns than vegetation-based classification systems. This effort to delineate modern U.S. pyromes based on fire observations provides a national-scale framework of contemporary fire regions and may help elucidate patterns of change in an uncertain future. Full article
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Article
A Field Study of Tropical Peat Fire Behaviour and Associated Carbon Emissions
Fire 2022, 5(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire5030062 - 29 Apr 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2041
Abstract
Tropical peatlands store vast volumes of carbon belowground. Human land uses have led to their degradation, reducing their carbon storage services. Clearing and drainage make peatlands susceptible to surface and belowground fires. Satellites do not readily detect smouldering peat fires, which release globally [...] Read more.
Tropical peatlands store vast volumes of carbon belowground. Human land uses have led to their degradation, reducing their carbon storage services. Clearing and drainage make peatlands susceptible to surface and belowground fires. Satellites do not readily detect smouldering peat fires, which release globally significant quantities of aerosols and climate-influencing gases. Despite national and international desire to improve management of these fires, few published results exist for in situ tropical peat fire behaviour and associated carbon emissions. We present new field methodology for calculating rates of fire spread within degraded peat (average spread rates, vertical 0.8 cm h−1, horizontal 2.7 cm h−1) and associated peat volume losses (102 m3 ha−1 in August, 754 m3 ha−1 in September) measured at six peat fire sites in Kalimantan, Indonesia, in 2015. Utilizing locally collected bulk density and emission factors, total August and September gas emissions of 27.2 t ha−1 (8.1 tC ha−1) and 200.7 t ha−1 (60.2 tC ha−1) were estimated. We provide much needed, but currently lacking, IPCC Tier 3-level data to improve GHG estimates from tropical peat fires. We demonstrate how calculations of total emission estimates can vary greatly in magnitude (+798% to −26%) depending on environmental conditions, season, peat burn depth methodology, bulk density and emission factors data sources, and assumed versus observed combustion factors. This illustrates the importance of in situ measurements and the need for more refined methods to improve accuracies of GHG estimates from tropical peat fires. Full article
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Article
Large-Scale Enclosure Fire Experiments Adopting CLT Slabs with Different Types of Polyurethane Adhesives: Genesis and Preliminary Findings
Fire 2022, 5(2), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire5020039 - 20 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3377
Abstract
This paper provides understanding of the fire performance of exposed cross-laminated-timber (CLT) in large enclosures. An office-type configuration has been represented by a 3.75 by 7.6 by 2.4 m high enclosure constructed of non-combustible blockwork walls, with a large opening on one long [...] Read more.
This paper provides understanding of the fire performance of exposed cross-laminated-timber (CLT) in large enclosures. An office-type configuration has been represented by a 3.75 by 7.6 by 2.4 m high enclosure constructed of non-combustible blockwork walls, with a large opening on one long face. Three experiments are described in which propane-fuelled burners created a line fire that impinged on different ceiling types. The first experiment had a non-combustible ceiling lining in which the burners were set to provide flames that extended approximately halfway along the underside of the ceiling. Two further experiments used exposed 160 mm thick (40-20-40-20-40 mm) loaded CLT panels with a standard polyurethane adhesive between lamella in one experiment and a modified polyurethane adhesive in the other. Measurements included radiative heat flux to the ceiling and the floor, temperatures within the depth of the CLT and the mass loss of the panels. Results show the initial peak rate of heat release with the exposed CLT was up to three times greater when compared with the non-combustible lining. As char formed, this stabilised at approximately one and a half times that of the non-combustible lining. Premature char fall-off (due to bond-line failure) was observed close to the burners in the CLT using standard polyurethane adhesive. However, both exposed CLT ceiling experiments underwent auto-extinction of flaming combustion once the burners were switched off. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Technical Forum for Fire Science Laboratory and Field Methods)
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Article
A Historical Perspective to Inform Strategic Planning for 2020 End-of-Year Wildland Fire Response Efforts
Fire 2022, 5(2), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire5020035 - 01 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2218
Abstract
A severe outbreak of wildfire across the US Pacific Coast during August 2020 led to persistent fire activity through the end of summer. In late September, Fire Weather Outlooks predicted higher than usual fire activity into the winter in parts of California, with [...] Read more.
A severe outbreak of wildfire across the US Pacific Coast during August 2020 led to persistent fire activity through the end of summer. In late September, Fire Weather Outlooks predicted higher than usual fire activity into the winter in parts of California, with concomitant elevated fire danger in the Southeastern US. To help inform the regional and national allocation of firefighting personnel and equipment, we developed visualizations of resource use during recent late season, high-demand analogs. Our visualizations provided an overview of the crew, engine, dozer, aerial resource, and incident management team usage by geographic area. While these visualizations afforded information that managers needed to support their decisions regarding resource allocation, they also revealed a potentially significant gap between resource demand and late-season availability that is only likely to increase over time due to lengthening fire seasons. This gap highlights the need for the increased assessment of suppression resource acquisition and allocation systems that, to date, have been poorly studied. Full article
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Article
Facilitating Prescribed Fire in Northern California through Indigenous Governance and Interagency Partnerships
Fire 2021, 4(3), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4030037 - 16 Jul 2021
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 3875
Abstract
Prescribed burning by Indigenous people was once ubiquitous throughout California. Settler colonialism brought immense investments in fire suppression by the United States Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE) to protect timber and structures, effectively limiting prescribed [...] Read more.
Prescribed burning by Indigenous people was once ubiquitous throughout California. Settler colonialism brought immense investments in fire suppression by the United States Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE) to protect timber and structures, effectively limiting prescribed burning in California. Despite this, fire-dependent American Indian communities such as the Karuk and Yurok peoples, stalwartly advocate for expanding prescribed burning as a part of their efforts to revitalize their culture and sovereignty. To examine the political ecology of prescribed burning in Northern California, we coupled participant observation of prescribed burning in Karuk and Yurok territories (2015–2019) with 75 surveys and 18 interviews with Indigenous and non-Indigenous fire managers to identify political structures and material conditions that facilitate and constrain prescribed fire expansion. Managers report that interagency partnerships have provided supplemental funding and personnel to enable burning, and that decentralized prescribed burn associations facilitate prescribed fire. However, land dispossession and centralized state regulations undermine Indigenous and local fire governance. Excessive investment in suppression and the underfunding of prescribed fire produces a scarcity of personnel to implement and plan burns. Where Tribes and local communities have established burning infrastructure, authorities should consider the devolution of decision-making and land repatriation to accelerate prescribed fire expansion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Rethinking Wildland Fire Governance: A Series of Perspectives)
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Article
Factors Associated with Structure Loss in the 2013–2018 California Wildfires
Fire 2019, 2(3), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2030049 - 02 Sep 2019
Cited by 31 | Viewed by 6352
Abstract
Tens of thousands of structures and hundreds of human lives have been lost in recent fire events throughout California. Given the potential for these types of wildfires to continue, the need to understand why and how structures are being destroyed has taken on [...] Read more.
Tens of thousands of structures and hundreds of human lives have been lost in recent fire events throughout California. Given the potential for these types of wildfires to continue, the need to understand why and how structures are being destroyed has taken on a new level of urgency. We compiled and analyzed an extensive dataset of building inspectors’ reports documenting homeowner mitigation practices for more than 40,000 wildfire-exposed structures from 2013–2018. Comparing homes that survived fires to homes that were destroyed, we investigated the role of defensible space distance, defensive actions, and building structural characteristics, statewide and parsed into three broad regions. Overall, structural characteristics explained more of a difference between survived and destroyed structures than defensible space distance. The most consistently important structural characteristics—having enclosed eaves, vent screens, and multi-pane windows—were those that potentially prevented wind-born ember penetration into structures, although multi-pane windows are also known to protect against radiant heat. In the North-Interior part of the state, active firefighting was the most important reason for structure survival. Overall, the deviance explained for any given variable was relatively low, suggesting that other factors need to be accounted for to understand the full spectrum of structure loss contributors. Furthermore, while destroyed homes were preferentially included in the study, many “fire-safe” structures, having > 30 m defensible space or fire-resistant building materials, were destroyed. Thus, while mitigation may play an important role in structure survival, additional strategies should be considered to reduce future structure loss. Full article
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Article
Severe Fire Danger Index: A Forecastable Metric to Inform Firefighter and Community Wildfire Risk Management
Fire 2019, 2(3), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2030047 - 27 Aug 2019
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 12862
Abstract
Despite major advances in numerical weather prediction, few resources exist to forecast wildland fire danger conditions to support operational fire management decisions and community early-warning systems. Here we present the development and evaluation of a spatial fire danger index that can be used [...] Read more.
Despite major advances in numerical weather prediction, few resources exist to forecast wildland fire danger conditions to support operational fire management decisions and community early-warning systems. Here we present the development and evaluation of a spatial fire danger index that can be used to assess historical events, forecast extreme fire danger, and communicate those conditions to both firefighters and the public. It uses two United States National Fire Danger Rating System indices that are related to fire intensity and spread potential. These indices are normalized, combined, and categorized based on a 39-yr climatology (1979–2017) to produce a single, categorical metric called the Severe Fire Danger Index (SFDI) that has five classes; Low, Moderate, High, Very High, and Severe. We evaluate the SFDI against the number of newly reported wildfires and total area burned from agency fire reports (1992–2017) as well as daily remotely sensed numbers of active fire pixels and total daily fire radiative power for large fires (2003–2016) from the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) across the conterminous United States. We show that the SFDI adequately captures geographic and seasonal variations of fire activity and intensity, where 58% of the eventual area burned reported by agency fire records, 75.2% of all MODIS active large fire pixels, and 81.2% of all fire radiative power occurred when the SFDI was either Very High or Severe (above the 90th percentile). We further show that SFDI is a strong predictor of firefighter fatalities, where 97 of 129 (75.2%) burnover deaths from 1979 to 2017 occurred when SFDI was either Very High or Severe. Finally, we present an operational system that uses short-term, numerical weather predictions to produce daily SFDI forecasts and show that 76.2% of all satellite active fire detections during the first 48 h following the ignition of nine high-profile case study fires in 2017 and 2018 occurred under Very High or Severe SFDI conditions. The case studies indicate that the extreme weather events that caused tremendous damage and loss of life could be mapped ahead of time, which would allow both wildland fire managers and vulnerable communities additional time to prepare for potentially dangerous conditions. Ultimately, this simple metric can provide critical decision support information to wildland firefighters and fire-prone communities and could form the basis of an early-warning system that can improve situational awareness and potentially save lives. Full article
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Article
We’re Not Doing Enough Prescribed Fire in the Western United States to Mitigate Wildfire Risk
Fire 2019, 2(2), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2020030 - 29 May 2019
Cited by 77 | Viewed by 13430
Abstract
Prescribed fire is one of the most widely advocated management practices for reducing wildfire hazard and has a long and rich tradition rooted in indigenous and local ecological knowledge. The scientific literature has repeatedly reported that prescribed fire is often the most effective [...] Read more.
Prescribed fire is one of the most widely advocated management practices for reducing wildfire hazard and has a long and rich tradition rooted in indigenous and local ecological knowledge. The scientific literature has repeatedly reported that prescribed fire is often the most effective means of achieving such goals by reducing fuels and wildfire hazard and restoring ecological function to fire-adapted ecosystems in the United States (US) following a century of fire exclusion. This has translated into calls from scientists and policy experts for more prescribed fire, particularly in the Western US, where fire activity has escalated in recent decades. The annual extent of prescribed burning in the Western US remained stable or decreased from 1998 to 2018, while 70% of all prescribed fire was completed primarily by non-federal entities in the Southeastern US. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was the only federal agency to substantially increase prescribed fire use, potentially associated with increased tribal self-governance. This suggests that the best available science is not being adopted into management practices, thereby further compounding the fire deficit in the Western US and the potential for more wildfire disasters. Full article
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Other

Perspective
Wildfires in the Atomic Age: Mitigating the Risk of Radioactive Smoke
Fire 2022, 5(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire5010002 - 26 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2552
Abstract
This Perspective highlights the lingering consequences of nuclear disasters by examining the risks posed by wildfires that rerelease radioactive fallout originally deposited into the environment by accidents at nuclear power plants or testing of nuclear weapons. Such wildfires produce uncontainable, airborne, and hazardous [...] Read more.
This Perspective highlights the lingering consequences of nuclear disasters by examining the risks posed by wildfires that rerelease radioactive fallout originally deposited into the environment by accidents at nuclear power plants or testing of nuclear weapons. Such wildfires produce uncontainable, airborne, and hazardous smoke, which potentially carries radioactive material, thus becoming the specter of the original disaster. As wildfires occur more frequently with climate change and land use changes, nuclear wildfires present a pressing yet little discussed problem among wildfire management and fire scholars. The problem requires urgent attention due to the risks it poses to the health and wellbeing of wildland firefighters, land stewards, and smoke-impacted communities. This Perspective explains the problem, outlines future research directions, suggests potential solutions, and underlines the broader benefits of mitigating the risks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Rethinking Wildland Fire Governance: A Series of Perspectives)
Perspective
Catastrophic Bushfires, Indigenous Fire Knowledge and Reframing Science in Southeast Australia
Fire 2021, 4(3), 61; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4030061 - 09 Sep 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 5793
Abstract
The catastrophic 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires were the worst fire season in the recorded history of Southeast Australia. These bushfires were one of several recent global conflagrations across landscapes that are homelands of Indigenous peoples, homelands that were invaded and colonised by European [...] Read more.
The catastrophic 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires were the worst fire season in the recorded history of Southeast Australia. These bushfires were one of several recent global conflagrations across landscapes that are homelands of Indigenous peoples, homelands that were invaded and colonised by European nations over recent centuries. The subsequent suppression and cessation of Indigenous landscape management has had profound social and environmental impacts. The Black Summer bushfires have brought Indigenous cultural burning practices to the forefront as a potential management tool for mitigating climate-driven catastrophic bushfires in Australia. Here, we highlight new research that clearly demonstrates that Indigenous fire management in Southeast Australia produced radically different landscapes and fire regimes than what is presently considered “natural”. We highlight some barriers to the return of Indigenous fire management to Southeast Australian landscapes. We argue that to adequately address the potential for Indigenous fire management to inform policy and practice in managing Southeast Australian forest landscapes, scientific approaches must be decolonized and shift from post-hoc engagement with Indigenous people and perspectives to one of collaboration between Indigenous communities and scientists. Full article
(This article belongs to the Collection Rethinking Wildland Fire Governance: A Series of Perspectives)
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