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Evaluating fuel complexes for fire hazard mitigation planning in the southeastern United States


Anne G. Andreu
Dan Shea



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Historical Station(s):

Southern Research Station


Forest Ecology and Management. 27: 4–16


Fire hazard mitigation planning requires an accurate accounting of fuel complexes to predict potential fire behavior and effects of treatment alternatives. In the southeastern United States, rapid vegetation growth coupled with complex land use history and forest management options requires a dynamic approach to fuel characterization. In this study we assessed potential surface fire behavior with the Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS), a tool which uses inventoried fuelbed inputs to predict fire behavior. Using inventory data from 629 plots established in the upper Atlantic Coastal Plain, South Carolina, we constructed FCCS fuelbeds representing median fuel characteristics by major forest type and age class. With a dry fuel moisture scenario and 6.4 km h-1 midflame wind speed, the FCCS predicted moderate to high potential fire hazard for the majority of the fuelbeds under study. To explore fire hazard under potential future fuel conditions, we developed fuelbeds representing the range of quantitative inventory data for fuelbed components that drive surface fire behavior algorithms and adjusted shrub species composition to represent 30% and 60% relative cover of highly flammable shrub species. Results indicate that the primary drivers of surface fire behavior vary by forest type, age and surface fire behavior rating. Litter tends to be a primary or secondary driver in most forest types. In comparison to other surface fire contributors, reducing shrub loading results in reduced flame lengths most consistently across forest types. FCCS fuelbeds and the results from this project can be used for fire hazard mitigation planning throughout the southern Atlantic Coastal Plain where similar forest types occur. The approach of building simulated fuelbeds across the range of available surface fuel data produces sets of incrementally different fuel characteristics that can be applied to any dynamic forest types in which surface fuel conditions change rapidly.


Andreu, Anne G.; Shea, Dan; Parresol, Bernard R.; Ottmar, Roger D. 2012. Evaluating fuel complexes for fire hazard mitigation planning in the southeastern United States. Forest Ecology and Management. 273: 4–16.

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