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

Comparing the Prescribed Natural Fire Program With Presettlement Fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

JK Brown, SF Arno, SW Barrett and JP Menakis

International Journal of Wildland Fire 4(3) 157 - 168
Published: 1994


The severity and extent of recent fires (1979-1990) were compared with that of presettlement fires (pre-1935) by eight major forest types in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (SBW) in Idaho and Montana. Presettlement fire intervals were determined for estimating area burned. Presettlement annual area burned for the entire SBW was 4,290 ha by stand replacement fire and 4,310 ha by nonlethal understory fire. All recent period fires>4 ha were mapped using a GIS system. Area burned was determined by the fire severity classes: crowning, lethal surface, nonlethal surface, and no burning. Annual area burned averaged 2,780 ha by stand replacement and 2,270 by understory fire. Area burned during presettlement was 1.7 times that during the recent period. During the presettlement period, area burned by stand replacement and nonlethal understory fire was 1.5 and 1.9 times greater respectively than during the recent period.

© IAWF 1994

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