The United States is home to many different and unique forests. Prior to the 21st century, the United States Forests Service assumed that the best way to protect these forests was to put all efforts to keeping them alive. An enemy to these efforts were wildfires, thus the US adopted a complete fire suppression approach. At the turn of the century, the US realized that wildfires are a necessary part of a forest ecosystem, as they help return nutrients to the soil and reduce ground fuels. However, after suppressing all fires for over 100 years, the forests evolved into a weakened state, making them prone to large scale, destructive wildfires. Paired with a changing climate, fires are now costing billions of dollars each year, with no expectation of changing. One way to help reduce the threat wildfires pose to surrounding communities is to participate in a series of prescribed burns. These burns allow the forests to participate in their natural ecological life cycle, while making sure that personnel are on hand to contain the fire before it spreads out of control. The issue is the time of year in which the environmental conditions are deemed safe for controlled burns is decreasing, while the time of year in which uncontrollable wildfires are occurring is increasing. To help expand the amount of time each year in which controlled burning can happen, I used agent based modeling to help examine the effect extreme conditions have on wildfires. By better understanding how the conditions are effecting the size, spread, intensity, and speed of a fire, it is easier to predict how an actual fire will respond to more extreme conditions. Those findings can help to increase the amount of time a community can do controlled burning, as it can help communities know how the controlled burns could possibly spread out of control.


Long, Colby




Environmental Health and Protection | Other Mathematics


Agent Based Modeling, Simulation, Wildfire

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar


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