(by Michael Gallagher, Science & Technology Committee)fire training pic
(photo by Inga LaPuma)

Fire management is a hot issue (pun intended) in the western US, where increased fire activity and risk have exacerbated the economic, public health, and environmental threats of wildland fire, while fire in the Northeast poses demonstrably less immediate risk in most places and has received comparably little attention.

Fire in the Northeast, however, remains an irreplaceable form of ecosystem disturbance, necessary to maintaining native forest species assemblages and productivity that can offer the greatest returns in resilience and environmental benefits with consideration of climate change, increasing forest insect pests, and threats to wildlife. Fire also remains by far the most effective and practical tool for preventing catastrophic fires in the Northeast’s high-fire-frequency landscapes. While different from western fire-dependent landscapes, fire management and the use of fire as a silvicultural tool in the Northeast’s landscapes has important consequences on economics, health, and forest health.

Communication is crucial.  To foster this, the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Forest Guild, the Northeast Fire Protection Compact, and the Joint Fire Science Program have teamed up to fund and organize the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange (NAFSE), to serve as a fire science knowledge exchange specifically for researchers, advocates, and private, public, and non-profit land managers in the Northeast.   NAFSE facilitates communication, focuses on the Northeast’s unique fire problems and solutions, and the dissemination of useful information through online resources, webinars, research briefs, field trips, and workshops.  Some recent topics of NAFSE’s webinars have included  demonstrations of web-based tools for fire management and presentations about the carbon dynamics of fire management and the decline of wildfires in New England’s forests (all past material is freely available online).

Fire is important to all forests in the Northeast, and therefore the Exchange is intended to serve all people who are interested in the topic of fire in the Northeast, regardless of their management role.  As a way to get involved the NAFSE team is developing a two-day capstone workshop, to be held on November 4-6, 2015 in New Jersey at Stockton University.  The workshop will consist of talks focusing on developing a common language for framing management objectives. Local field trips will highlight fire science in our coastal plains ecosystems and Dr. Bill Patterson, acclaimed fire-researcher and professor emeritus, UMASS, is tentatively scheduled as the keynote speaker.  Funding may be available upon request and further details can be found in the “Events and Webinars” section of the NAFSE webpage.
For fire resources, publications, webinars, and field trips in the North Atlantic area, as well as links to fire science exchanges of other regions, visit NAFSE at http://www.firesciencenorthatlantic.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/northatlanticfirescience.