Fire Danger Level Descriptions

Fire Danger Ratings help give people an idea about how easily fires start and spread. It takes into account weather, fuel types (grasses, brush, timber, snags, etc), and fuels moisture.

Fire Danger Low


  • Fuels do not ignite readily from small firebrands, although a more intense heat source such as lightning may start many fires in duff or punky wood.
  • Fires in open cured grassland may burn freely a few hours after rain, but woods fire spread slowly by creeping or smoldering, and burn in irregular fingers.
  • There is little danger of spotting.
Fire Danger Medium


  • Fires can start from most accidental causes, but with the exception of lightning fires in some areas, the number of starts is generally low.
  • Fires in open-cured grassland will burn briskly and spread rapidly on windy days. Wood fires spread slowly to moderately fast.
  • The average fire is of moderate intensity, although heavy concentrations of fuel, especially draped fuel, may burn hot. Short-distance spotting may occur, but is not persistent.
  • Fires are not likely to become serious, and control is relatively easy.
Fire Danger High


  • All fine dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from any cause.
  • Unattended brush and campfires are likely to escape.
  • Fires spread rapidly and short-distance spotting is common.
  • Fire may become serious and their control difficult unless they are hit hard and fast while small.
Fire Danger Very High


  • Fires start easily from any cause.
  • Fires spread rapidly and increase quickly in intensity.
  • Spot fires are a constant danger.
  • Fires burning in light fuels may quickly develop high intensity characteristics such as long-distance spotting and fire whirlwinds when they burn into heavier fuels.
Fire Danger Extreme


  • Fires under extreme conditions start quickly, spread furiously and burn intensely.
  • All fires are potentially serious.
  • Development into high intensity burning will usually be faster and occur from smaller fires than in the high danger class.
  • Direct attack is rarely possible and may be dangerous, except immediately after ignition.
  • Fires that develop headway in heavy slash or in conifer stands may be unmanageable while the extreme burning conditions last. Under these conditions, the only effective and safe control action is on the flanks until the weather changes, or the fuel supply lessens.


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