International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
REVIEW

Describing wildland surface fuel loading for fire management: a review of approaches, methods and systems

Robert E. Keane
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 5775 Highway 10 West, Missoula, MT 59808, USA. Email: rkeane@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(1) 51-62 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF11139
Submitted: 21 September 2011  Accepted: 2 May 2012   Published: 29 August 2012

Abstract

Wildland fuelbeds are exceptionally complex, consisting of diverse particles of many sizes, types and shapes with abundances and properties that are highly variable in time and space. This complexity makes it difficult to accurately describe, classify, sample and map fuels for wildland fire research and management. As a result, many fire behaviour and effects software prediction systems use a generalised description of fuels to simplify data collection and entry into various computer programs. There are several major fuel description systems currently used in the United States, Canada and Australia, and this is a source of confusion for many in fire management. This paper (1) summarises the challenges of describing fuels, (2) contrasts approaches (association, classification and abstraction) for developing fuel description systems and (3) discusses possible future directions in wildland fuel description and science to transition to a universal fuel description system. Most discussion centres on surface fuel loadings as the primary descriptive characteristic. This synthesis paper is intended to provide background for understanding surface fuel classification and description systems and their use in simulating fire behaviour and effects, quantifying carbon inventories and evaluating site productivity.

Additional keywords: fire behaviour, fire effects, fuel classification, fuel inventory, fuel models.


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