Monitoring your management treatments, including fire, is important. Monitoring helps you to understand if your treatments have allowed you to reach your goals. Unfortunately, monitoring is often a low priority in the fire world. Fire effects monitoring can be as simple as photopoints (taking pictures from a fixed location at key times and comparing them to see your progress). NRCS and other extension organizations have guidelines for landowners that have easy to use methods lined out such as step point counts or biomass rulers. Folks working with agencies or organizations might opt to develop a more rigorous type of monitoring plan that includes species composition measurements. This type of monitoring requires the use of a database for storing and analyzing data.
FFI (Feat FireMon Integrated) is a free database system designed specifically for fire effects monitoring. The database is built on the monitoring protocols for the National Park Service and Forest Service, but has some flexibility. It stores vegetation data as well as fuels data, fire history, fire behavior, and much more. For the spatially adept, FFI can even interface with Arc Map to help you determine sampling locations and frequency. FFI will store pathways to your monitoring photos as well.
There are training courses around the country if you want to give it a try. There’s one coming up in the Southern Region: Southern Area Advanced Fire Academy, June 10-13. The class includes two days in the field learning field sampling methods and two days in the classroom learning FFI. You can attend the field, classroom or both sessions. The class is free if you work for an academy “partner”.