Wildland Fire Sciences

The Wildland Fire Science Center (WFSC) combines DRI’s broad expertise in operational fire support, fire emissions, fire ecology, and fire hydrology to gain a holistic understanding of fire causes, processes, and effects on the environment and communities.

Because climate change is increasing the frequency and spatial and seasonal extent of fires, this unique new center also couples DRI’s extensive climate change research and allows DRI faculty and students to bridge basic fire research with fire operational and management support—yielding solution-oriented science with a lasting impact.

In the western US and elsewhere, size, severity of effects, and cost of wildfires have increased dramatically in recent years. The rapid increase in “megafires”, burning more than 100,000 acres, has been especially alarming. In addition to the exorbitant financial and human cost of responding to these regularly occurring emergencies, the effects of uncharacteristically large and severe fires on ecology, hydrology, and the atmosphere are without historical precedent and scientific understanding is still limited. 

Traditional models of fire management and fighting have also come to a critical juncture with, for example, the US Forest Service spending more than $1.7 billion—more than half of its total annual budget—on fire fighting alone in 2015. 

Similar situations exist worldwide as land-use conversions and climate change interact, resulting in increased incidents and catastrophic effects of extreme wildfires. In addition, human consequences of wildfires are growing due to expanding urban-wildland interface and health effects of wildfire smoke inhalation are causing approximately 340,000 annual deaths worldwide.

Adam Watts, Ph.D.
Wildland Fire Sciences
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