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Current wildfire models are built on outdated equations and assumptions

Fire modeling is used by employees of utility companies and government agencies to understand and predict fire behavior. These organizations need to understand when weather conditions are favorable for fire and which locations are at greatest risk. They want to know where active fires will spread, how quickly, and in what direction. 

Over the last several years, we’ve seen wildfires behave in unprecedented ways. Fire models are no longer accurate at forecasting fire spread. Today’s climate is hotter and drier, extreme weather events happen more frequently, and forests are laden with fuel from drought-killed trees.

Fire models are only as good as the data that feeds into them and the scientific understanding of how weather, fuels, topography, and other factors shape fire behavior. Today’s models are built on inadequate data and outdated assumptions. As a result, our current understanding of fire behavior has been described as “medieval.”

Develop the next generation of wildfire forecasting models

Improving wildfire behavior forecasting requires a better understanding of the science of how forest fuels burn, the types and amount of fuels available in California’s wildlands, and the weather conditions that drive fast-spreading fires. 

Two teams within Pyregence—the Extreme Weather and Wildfire Team and the Fuel Mapping and Fire Physics Team—are conducting groundbreaking research that is transforming our understanding of wildfire behavior.

Building on that body research, the Fire Forecasting Team will be able to feed a more advanced set of data into its forecasting models.

In time, our models will incorporate higher-resolution inputs on vegetation and fuel, more frequent weather observations, and improved methods of predicting how active fires spread. 

Our models will also be more computationally efficient, running in a fraction of the time required by other models. 

PyreCast, our fire forecasting tool, is now available. It offers three forecasts:

  • Active Fires: Shows the locations of actively burning fires, as identified through satellite-based heat detection, and provides forecasts of where they are projected to spread over the next three days
  • Risk: Works by igniting hundreds of millions of hypothetical fires across the landscape and modeling their spread under forecast weather conditions over the next five days; shows which areas are at greatest risk from rapidly spreading fires
  • Fire Weather: Provides eight-day forecasts, updated every six hours, of key weather parameters affecting wildfire behavior, including temperature, relative humidity, winds, and fire weather indices.  


We aim to empower every user with the information they need to make informed decisions to protect people, property, and infrastructure. Members of the public stay informed by viewing where and how fast a fire will spread, similar to a forecast of a hurricane’s track. Emergency services officials can assess risk and issue evacuation orders. Firefighting agencies can develop suppression and containment strategies, and position crews and equipment to prepare for fires that may ignite in the coming days. Electrical utilities can identify which segments of the electric grid are vulnerable to wind-caused ignitions or damage from active fires and take appropriate action (such as cutting power in areas where power lines may cause fires or treating poles in the path of a fire).

Goals of the Wildfire Forecasting team


This forecast was designed for members of the public in active fire zones. They can view a list of all active fires in California (with plans to expand across the United States) and see an animation of where we expect fires to spread over the course of the next several days. The tool automatically updates with new fires as hot spots are sensed by satellites.


We provide forecasts that show when weather conditions exist that will increase fire danger. We show when weather conditions are right for fire ignition and spread—for example, when strong wind gusts may down power lines and spark new fires, or when hot temperatures and low humidity may speed the spread of active fires.


Designed for entities responsible for protecting people and property, this tool ignites hundreds of millions of hypothetical fires across the landscape and models their spread under weather conditions over the next five days. This makes it possible to identify areas where rapidly spreading fires may occur, as well as areas at greatest risk over the next several days.

Wildfire Forecasting

Fire Forecasting-Related Research Papers

This web page hosts peer-reviewed research papers and other publications based on the work of the Wildfire Forecasting team. 


Fire Forecasting Application: PyreCast™
Our web tool provides several forecasts, including active fire spread, fire weather , and fire risk.
Fire Forecasting
User’s Guide
Guide provides instructions on using the near-term risk forecast outputs
Fire Forecasting Data
Datasets include input and output data from near-term forecast models
Fire Forecasting Code
Repository contains programming code used to run near-term spread and risk forecast models