Assessing Crown Fire Potential by Linking Models of Surface and Crown Fire Behavior

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

USDA Forest Service Research Paper

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USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station

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Fire managers are increasingly concerned about the threat of crown fires, yet only now are quantitative methods for assessing crown fire hazard being developed. Links among existing mathematical models of fire behavior are used to develop two indices of crown fire hazard—the Torching Index and Crowning Index. These indices can be used to ordinate different forest stands by their relative susceptibility to crown fire and to compare the effectiveness of crown fire mitigation treatments. The coupled model was used to simulate the wide range of fire behavior possible in a forest stand, from a low-intensity surface fire to a high-intensity active crown fire, for the purpose of comparing potential fire behavior. The hazard indices and behavior simulations incorporate the effects of surface fuel characteristics, dead and live fuel moistures (surface and crown), slope steepness, canopy base height, canopy bulk density, and wind reduction by the canopy. Example simulations are for western Montana Pinus ponderosa and Pinus contorta stands. Although some of the models presented here have had limited testing or restricted geographic applicability, the concepts will apply to models for other regions and new models with greater geographic applicability.