USDA Forest Service

Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team


Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

400 N 34th Street, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 732-7800

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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Icon of magnifying glassThe Fuel Characteristic Classification System

Table showing list of FCCS strata and catagories: canopy, shrubs, nonwoody vegetation, woody fuels, litter-lichen-moss, and ground fuelsThe Fuel Characterization Classification System (FCCS) calculates and classifies fuelbeds by their characteristics and their potential fire behavior. Users may select fuelbeds from a fuelbed library, or create a set of customized fuelbeds representing any scale of interest. The FCCS fuelbeds represent fuels throughout much of North America and were compiled from published literature, fuels photo series, other fuels data sets, and expert opinion. They have been mapped in LANDFIRE and are preloaded in the Fuel and Fire Tools (FFT) application.  Regional fuelbed datasets are available for download, representing a range of vegetation types and management scenarios for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (WA), central Oregon, northeastern Oregon and Lake Tahoe (CA/NV).

When a user has completed editing fuelbed data, FCCS reports input and calculated fuel characteristics for each existing fuelbed component, from canopy fuels to ground fuels. Resykts are available either in English or metric units. FCCS also calculates the relative fire hazard of each fuelbed, including surface fire behavior, crown fire, and available fuel potentials, scaled on an index from 0 to 9. These FCCS fire potentials facilitate communication of fire hazard among users and provide an index of the intrinsic capacity of each fuelbed for surface fire behavior, crown fire and available consumption of fuels under dry environmental conditions (no slope, 4 mph midflame wind speed, and dry fuel moistures).

FCCS predicts surface fire behavior, including reaction intensity (BTU/ft/min), flame length (ft), and rate of spread (ft/min) based on benchmark and user-specified environmental conditions. By comparing predicted flame length and rate of spread, FCCS provides a crosswalks to one of the original 13 Fire Behavior Prediction System fuel models or 40 standard fuel models. FCCS also reports carbon storage by fuelbed category and subcategory. FCCS version 3.0 has been recoded as a calculator module that can be run as a batch mode or as an option within the Fuel and Fire Tools application.

"These outputs can be used by the forest managers/practitioners when developing various management scenarios that could impact timber sales, thinning projects, fuels treatment project activities and fire suppression/pre-suppression activities." (James 2012)

Version Notes

FCCS version 3.0 improvements:

  • FCCS has been recoded as a calculator module that can either be run in batch mode or used within the Fuel and Fire Tools (FFT) application.
  • Multiple fuelbeds are supported by the FFT fuelbed editor. Some input screens were consolidated and the stratum and category icons were removed. The basic fuelbed organization has been preserved with tabs that should be familiar to FCCS 2.2 users. 
  • FERA’s pile calculator has now been integrated into the FFT’s fuelbed editor.  In order to make this change, changes were made to FCCS and FCCS fuelbeds.
  • The FFT environmental scenario interface supports only one scenario per FCCS calculation. The dry, benchmark scenario (D2L2 fuel moisture scenario, no slope and 4mph wind speed) is always run alongside user-specified scenarios, so users have results under two environmental scenarios (in contrast to three supported by FCCS 2.2).
  • Optional fuel loading inputs were added for shrubs, litter, lichen, moss, upper duff, lower duff, basal accumulation and squirrel midden categories.  If you do not have fuel loading values, leave the optional fuel loading input blank, and FCCS will calculate a loading value for you based on your other inputs.
  • A batch version of FCCS can be found in the FCCS_3 subdirectory and may be useful for running multiple fuelbeds through the FCCS 3.0.  Click here for usage instructions.

FCCS 2.2 improvements:

  • User input screens were offered in both metric and English measurement systems.
  • Minor corrections were made to the total carbon report and to the fuel model crosswalk calculations.
  • FCCS crown fire potentials were amended to more accurately represent recently dead trees with red foliage
  • The FCCS batch mode interface was slightly modified to accommodate large batches of fuelbeds and to remove minor errors 
  • A combustible-carbon report was added to the batch calculator.

FCCS v. 2.1 improvements:

  • An important fix to the surface fire behavior equations that improved accounting of the influence of live and dead vegetation on surface fire reaction intensity.
  • Calculation of tree bole biomass and carbon.
  • Minor updates to user screens and reports.

FCCS v. 2.0 improvements:

  • The ability for a user to define environmental variables such as moisture
  • Predictions of surface fire behavior, based on both benchmark and user-specified environmental conditions.
  • Reports of carbon storage by fuelbed category and subcategory
  • Predictions of the amount of combustible carbon in each category and subcategory based on selected fuel moisture scenarios.
  • Reports in English and metric units
  • Ability for users to upload photos to represent each fuelbed
  • Batch mode to provide output on a set of fuelbeds.

FCCS v 1.1 improvements:

The program reports predicted surface fire behavior, including reaction intensity (BTU ft-2 min-1), flame length (ft), and rate of spread (ft min-1), under benchmark environmental conditions. Benchmark environmental conditions are:

    0% slope

    4 mph wind speed

    Dry fuel conditions (D2L2 moisture scenario after Andrews et al. 2005).

Using a dry fuel moisture scenario (D2L2), FCCS suggests crosswalks from reported fuelbeds to the original 13 surface fire behavior fuel models and the 40 standard fuel models (Scott and Burgan 2005).

The FCCS webpage included references in PDF format for each of the FCCS fuelbeds.

Team Lead: Roger Ottmar


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