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Fire severity classification: Uses and abuses

Jain, Theresa B.; Graham, Russell T. 2003. Fire severity classification: Uses and abuses. In: Second International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress and Fifth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology; 2003 November 16-20; Orlando, FL, U.S.A. Abstract P2.12. Boston, MA: American Meteorological Society. Online:

Burn severity (also referred to as fire severity) is not a single definition, but rather a concept and its classification is a function of the measured units unique to the system of interest. The systems include: flora and fauna, soil microbiology and hydrologic processes, atmospheric inputs, fire management, and society. Depending on the particular system of interest, the unit of measure changes. For example, in fire management the units of measure include consumption of organic material, flame length, torching index and other indicators of risk and fire behavior. For the atmosphere the units of burn severity include particulates and toxic gasses as a result of smoke and other inputs from fires. For society the number of homes damaged, injuries, and net value changes would be the units of measure. Flora and fauna and soil microbiology and hydrologic processes units of measure would quantify residual ecosystem structure after the fire and then subsequent responses in nutrient cycling, erosion, and species diversity and recovery rates to name a few.

Keywords: burn severity, fire severity classification

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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Fire severity classification: Uses and abuses
Electronic Publish Date: May 30, 2013
Last Update:
May 30, 2013

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