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The Effectiveness and Limitations of Fuel Modeling Using the Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator

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Fuel treatment effectiveness is often evaluated with fire behavior modeling systems that use fuel models to generate fire behavior outputs. How surface fuels are assigned, either using one of the 53 stylized fuel models or developing custom fuel models, can affect predicted fire behavior. We collected surface and canopy fuels data before and 1, 2, 5, and 8 years after prescribed fire treatments across 10 national forests in California. Two new methods of assigning fuel models within the Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator were evaluated. Field-based values for dead and downed fuel loading were used to create custom fuel models or to assign stylized fuel models. Fire was simulated with two wind scenarios (maximum 1-minute speed and maximum momentary gust speed) to assess the effect of the fuel model method on potential fire behavior. Surface flame lengths and fire type produced from custom fuel models followed the fluctuations and variability of fine fuel loading more closely than stylized fuel models. However, results of 7 out of 10 statistical tests comparing surface flame length between custom and stylized fuel models were not significant (P < 0.05), suggesting that both methods used to assign surface fuel loads will predict fairly similar trends in fire behavior.
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Keywords: California; custom fuel model; fire behavior modeling; prescribed fire

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-04-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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