Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Reformulation of Rothermel's wildland fire behaviour model for heterogeneous fuelbeds.


David V. Sandberg
Cynthia L. Riccardi
Mark D. Schaaf



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 37: 2438-2455


Abstract: The Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) includes equations that calculate energy release and one-dimensional spread rate in quasi-steady-state fires in heterogeneous but spatially uniform wildland fuelbeds, using a reformulation of the widely used Rothermel fire spread model. This reformulation provides an automated means to predict fire behavior under any environmental conditions in any natural, modified, or simultated wildland fuelbed. The formulation may be used to compare potential fire behavior between fuelbeds that differ in time, space, or as a result of management, and provides a means to classify and map fuelbeds based on their expected surface fire behavior under any set of defined environmental conditions (i.e., effective windspeed and fuel moisture content). Model reformulation preserves the basic mathematical framework of the Rothermel fire spread model, reinterprets data from two of the original basic equations in his model, and offers a new conceptual formulation that allows the direct use of inventoried fuel properties instead of stylized fuel models. Alternative methods for calculating the effect of windspeed and fuel moisture, based on more recent literature, are also provided. This reformulation provides a framework for the incremental improvement in quantifying fire behavior parameters in complex fuelbeds and for modeling fire spread.


Sandberg, David V.; Riccardi, Cynthia L.; Schaaf, Mark D. 2007. Reformulation of Rothermel's wildland fire behaviour model for heterogeneous fuelbeds. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 37: 2438-2455

Publication Notes

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.