Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS)
Quantifies and classifies the structural and geographical diversity of wildland fuels in the United States and predicts their relative fire hazard. Current versions also predict surface fire behavior and quantify carbon stores for each calculated fuelbed.
Relevant to carbon estimations, outputs include quantitative measures of carbon storage (by fuelbed category) and combustible carbon in each category based upon fuel moisture scenarios.
Roger D. Ottmar
National (United States)
Defined by user; applicable at any scale
1 (on a scale of 1-3). Taking a couple of hours to go through the user manual is highly recommended.
Mapping fuelbed characteristics, assessing fire hazards, estimating carbon emissions from fires. FCCS also provides the necessary inputs to run fuel consumption and emission production models such as Consume 3_0 and the Fire Emission Production Simulator (FEPS).
A default set of environmental variables (moisture content, etc.) is used in calculations. If environmental conditions vary across your landscape, you will need to create custom fuelbeds with custom environmental variables.
Overview & Applicability
Fuelbeds vary widely in their physical attributes, potential fire behavior, and fire effects. The Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) was designed to represent the diversity of fuels found throughout the United States and predict their relative fire hazard. It consists of a large database of physical parameters that describe the abundance, physical character, and arrangement of wildland fuelbeds. Later versions build on this system by predicting surface fire behavior and quantifying carbon stores for each calculated fuelbed. FCCS also provides the necessary inputs to run fuel consumption and emission production models such as Consume 3_0 and the Fire Emission Production Simulator (FEPS).
FCCS was initially developed with funding from the Joint Fire Science Program in 1999, and current development is moving toward a web-based application and inclusion into the Intergovernmental Fuel Treatment Decision Support system.
Inputs and outputs
FCCS requires the user to identify the Bailey's ecoregion and vegetation form for an assessment area, and to select the fuelbed prototype (from their database) that most closely represents fuelbeds within the assessment area. The existing fuelbed descriptions were compiled from published & unpublished literature, fuels photo series, fuels data sets and expert opinion.
Alternatively, users can customize existing descriptions to create a set of fuelbeds to represent a particular scale of interest. The default set of environmental variables can also be customized if environmental conditions vary across the assessment area. These environmental inputs include moisture content (%) of live herbaceous and shrub fuels, 1-hr, 10-hr and 100-hr woody fuels, midflame windspeed, and slope gradient.
When the user has selected a fuelbed or edited the fuelbed data, FCCS reports the fuel characteristics for each existing fuelbed component including the trees, shrubs, grasses, woody fuels, litter, and duff. The system also calculates 1) surface fire behavior, crown fire and available fuel potential index based on a scale of 0- 9, 2) surface fire behavior (reaction intensity, rate of spread, and flamelength,for each fuelbed, and 3) cross-walks each fuelbed to one of the 13 original fire behavior fuel models and 40 standard fuel models. Newer versions of the tool calculate carbon storage (by fuelbed category) and combustible carbon in each category based upon fuel moisture scenarios.
Restrictions and limitations
FCCS makes point-based calculations of fuel characteristics and potential fire behavior and does not simulate fire spread across landscapes. However, because fuelbeds have no inherent scale, FCCS outputs can be easily mapped in GIS by assigning polygons or raster cells with a unique fuelbed identification number. When mapping FCCS predictions across landscapes, it is important to consider that environmental variable inputs (listed above) have a substantial impact on FCCS predictions of surface and crown fire behavior. If environmental conditions vary across your landscape, you will need to create custom fuelbeds with custom environmental variables. The FCCS batch mode is best suited for large numbers of fuelbeds and can accommodate custom environmental variables.
As part of the surface fire behavior outputs, FCCS provides a crosswalk to one of the 13 original fire behavior fuel models and one of the 40 standard fuel models (Scott and Burgan 2005). This is a static crosswalk based on predicted surface fire flame length and rate of spread under an input set of environmental variables. The crosswalk is invalid under any other environmental scenario and is generally not appropriate for simulating fire spread across landscapes (as in FARSITE). Fuel model crosswalks may be used in FlamMap as long as input wind, slope and fuel moistures remain the same as in the original FCCS prediction.
Accessing the tool and additional information
A user guide, tutorial, and peer-reviewed publications can be found at
View installation instructions and download the tool:
Limited training sessions on using FCCS are available: