WWETAC Projects

Project Title: Crown fire behavior characteristics and prediction in conifer forests: A state of knowledge synthesis

Principal Investigator: Martin E. Alexander, University of Alberta, Department of Renewable Resources

Co-Principal Investigators: Miguel G. Cruz, CSIRO-Commonwealth Scientific & Research Organization

Nicole M. Vaillant, Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center

David L. Peterson, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

Status: Completed

E-mail Contact: Nicole M. Vaillant, nvaillant@fs.fed.us

General Description: The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) glossary indicates that extreme fire behavior involves “a level of fire behavior characteristics that ordinarily precludes methods of direct control action. One or more of the following is usually involved: high rate of spread, prolific crowning and/or spotting, presence of fire whirls, strong convective column. Predictability is difficult because such fires often exercise some degree of influence on their environment and behave erratically, sometimes dangerously.”  The focus of the project is to synthesize available information on crown fire behavior related to conifer forests (e.g., the onset of crowning, type of crown fire and the associated spread rate and fireline intensity, convection column development, spotting, fire-induced vortices). The synthesis will be global in nature and is intended for multiple audiences ranging from the general public to college students to fire and land managers to university professors). The synthesis will include published peer-review articles, non-refereed publications, survey of operational experiences from fire and land managers, and data and information, including video footage, obtained during wildfire monitoring by the USDA Forest Service’s Adaptive Management Services Enterprise Team Fire Behavior Assessment Team.

crown fire

Time series photos from a fire proofed video camera during the Black Mountain II Fire in Montana in 2003. (Photo credit: Adaptive Management Services Enterprise Team)

End Products:

  1. Synthesis publications on crown fire dynamics in conifer forests
  2. Special issue of Fire Management Today
  3. Peer-reviewed publications

FORTHCOMING!

  • Chapter 9 Crown fire dynamics in conifer forests in Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Volume 2 for Fire Behavior Specialists, Researchers and Meteorologists.

Current Products:

Journal Publications

  • Models to predict the moisture content of lodgepole pine foliage during the red stage of mountain pine beetle attack. (PDF, 368KB)
  • Using modeled surface and crown fire behavior characteristics to evaluate fuel treatment effectiveness: a caution. (PDF, 112KB)
  • Crown fire potential in lodgepole pine forests during the red stage of mountain pine beetle attack (PDF, 1.5MB)
  • Tables for estimating canopy fuel characteristics from stand variables in four Interior West conifer forest types  (PDF, 85KB)
  • Foliar moisture content variations in lodgepole pine over the diurnal cycle during the red stage of mountain pine beetle attack (PDF, 380KB)
  • Wildfire’s resistance to control in mountain pine beetle-attacked lodgepole pine forests (PDF, 1.7MB)
  • Assessing the effect of foliar moisture on the spread rate of crown fires (PDF, 467KB)
  • Limitations on the accuracy of model predictions of wildland fire behaviour: a state-of-the-knowledge overview (PDF, 656KB)
  • Uncertainty associated with model predictions of surface and crown fire rates of spread (PDF, 2.7MB)
  • Are the applications of wildland fire behaviour models getting ahead of their evaluation again? (PDF, 1.1MB)
  • A mathematical model for predicting the maximum potential spotting distance from a crown fire (PDF, 915KB)
  • Modelling the impacts of surface and crown fire behaviour on serotinous cone opening in jack pine and lodgepole pine forests (PDF, 996KB)
  • Graphical aids for visualizing Byram’s fireline intensity in relation to flame length and crown scorch height (PDF, 361KB)
  • Fuels and fire behavior dynamics in bark-beetle attacked forests in western North America and implications for fire management (PDF, 2MB)
  • Interdependencies between flame length and fireline intensity in predicting crown fire initiation and crown scorch height (PDF, 1.5MB)
  • Evaluating regression model estimates of canopy fuel stratum characteristics in four crown fire-prone fuel types in western North America (PDF, 717KB)
  • Comment on "Estimating canopy fuel characteristics in five conifer stands in the western United States using tree and stand measurements" (PDF, 36KB)

Other publications

  • Synthesis on Crown Fire Behavior in Conifer Forests - Fire Management Today Special Issue 73(4). (PDF, 3.6MB)
  • Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program (PDF, 1.1MB)
  • Scott, A.C.; Bowman, D.M.J.S.; Bond, W.J.; Pyne, S.J.; Alexander, M.E. 2014. Fire on Earth: An Introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, England. 414 p.
  • Chapter 9 Crown fire dynamics in conifer forests in Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Volume 2 for Fire Behavior Specialists, Researchers and Meteorologists. (PDF, ~4MB)
  • Crown fires in conifer forests of the world: Do you have something to contribute or would like to know about something? (PDF, 1MB)
  • Chapter 8 in Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Crown fire dynamics in conifer forests (PDF, 1.8MB)
  • Fire Management Today article: A Synthesis on Crown Fires in Conifer Forests is Underway (PDF, 342KB)

Presentations

VII Conference on Forest Fire Research, November 14-10, 2014, Coimbra, Portugal

  • Uncertainty in Model Predictions of Wildland Fire Rate of Spread (Paper PDF, 1.2MB)

Large Wildland Fires: Social, Political & Ecological Effects Conference, May 19-23, 2014, Missoula, Montana

  • Effects of Bark Beetle Attack on Canopy Fuel Flammability and Crown Fire Potential in Lodgepole Pine and Engelmann Spruce Forests (Paper PDF, 629KB)
  • Error Associated with Model Predictions of Wildland Fire Rate of Spread (Extended abstract PDF, 155KB)
  • Practical Tools for Assessing Potential Crown Fire Behavior and Canopy Fuel Characteristics (Extended abstract PDF, 200KB)

The 4th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, February 18 -22, 2013, Raleigh, North Carolina.

  • Workshop: Crown Fire Behavior in Conifer Forests (Agenda PDF, 183KB & Presentation PDF, ~12MB)
  • Synthesizing Knowledge on Crown Fire Behavior in Conifer Forests: We Could Use Your Help! (Poster PDF, 1.3MB)

The 5th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress, December 3-7, 2012, Portland, Oregon.

  • The JFSP Crown Fire Behavior Synthesis Project Wants Your Input! (Poster PDF, 1.1MB)

The 12th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit, October 25-26, 2012, Sydney, Australia.

The 2nd Pacific Northwest Fire Behavior Workshop, January 17-20, 2012, Vancouver, Washington.

Interior West Fire Ecology Conference: Challenges & Opportunities in a Changing World, November 14-17, 2011, Snowbird, Utah.

  • What kind of fire behavior is required to open serotinous cones of jack pine and lodgepole pine? (Abstract PDF, 60KB & Presentation PDF, 1.9MB)
  • On the Value of Wildland Fire Behavior Case Studies (Abstract PDF, 48KB & Presentation PDF, 8.2MB)

International Conference on Fire Behaviour and Risk: Focus on Wildland Urban Interfaces, October 4-6, 2011, Alghero, Italy

  • Crown fires in conifer forests of the world: Do you have something to contribute or would like to know about something? (Abstract PDF, 155KB & Poster PDF, 776KB)

Wildfire2011, The 5th International Wildland Fire Conference, May 9-13, 2011 - Sun City, South Africa

  • Use of fire behaviour models to support silvicultural and fuel management decision making in industrial pine plantations (Abstract PDF, 350KB)
  • Crown fires in conifer forests of the world: Do you have something to contribute or would like to know about something? (Abstract PDF, 277KB & Poster PDF, 776KB)

11th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit, April 4-8, 2011, Missoula, MT

  • What are the safety implications of crown fires? (PDF, 683KB)

International Association of Wildland Fire, 3rd Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, October 25-29, 2010, Spokane, WA

  • Introducing the Canopy Fuel Stratum Characteristic Calculator (Paper PDF, 481KB & Poster PDF, 1.6MB)
  • Towards a Crown Fire Synthesis: What Would You Like to Know and What Might You Be Able to Contribute? (Paper PDF, 321KB & Poster PDF, 3.3MB)

VI International Conference on Forest Fire Research, November 13-14, 2010, Coimbra, Portugal

  • The effect of pruning on crown fire behavior in a calabrian pine plantation, northeastern Turkey (Abstract PDF, 15KB)

VI Short Course on Fire Behaviour, November 13-14, 2010, Coimbra, Portugal -- held at the VI International Conference on Forest Fire Research

  • VI Short Course on Fire Behaviour - Crown Fires (Lecture handout PDF, 7MB)

Background Citations

Page, WG, Jenkins, MJ, Alexander, ME (2014) Models to predict the moisture content of lodgepole pine foliage during the red stage of mountain pine beetle attack. Forest Science. In press.

Cruz, MG, Alexander, ME, Dam, J.E. (2014) Using modeled surface and crown fire behavior characteristics to evaluate fuel treatment effectiveness: a caution. Forest Science. In press.

Page, WG, Jenkins, MJ, Alexander, ME (2014). Crown fire potential in lodgepole pine forests during the red stage of mountain pine beetle attack. Forestry. In press. doi:10.1093/forestry/cpu003

Alexander, ME and Cruz, MG (2014) Chapter 9: Crown fire dynamics in conifer forests. In: Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Volume 2 for Fire Behavior Specialists, Researchers and Meteorologists. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, Oregon. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-891.In press.

Page, WG, Alexander, ME, Jenkins, MJ (2013) Wildfire’s resistance to control of wildfires in mountain pine beetle-attacked lodgepole pine forests. Forestry Chronicle 89: 783-794.

Page, WG, Jenkins, MJ and Alexander, ME (2013) Foliar moisture content variations in lodgepole pine over the diurnal cycle during the red stage of mountain pine beetle attack. Environmental Modelling & Software 49: 98-102.

Alexander, ME and Cruz, MG (2013) Assessing the effect of foliar moisture on the spread rate of crown fires. International Journal of Wildland Fire 22: 415-427, 869-870.

Alexander, ME and Cruz, MG (2013) Limitations on the accuracy of model predictions of wildland fire behaviour: a state-of-the-knowledge overview. Forestry Chronicle 89: 370-381.

Cruz, MG, and Alexander, ME (2013) Uncertainty associated with model predictions of surface and crown fire rates of spread. Environmental Modelling & Software 47: 16-28.

Alexander, ME and Cruz, MG (2013) Are the applications of wildland fire behaviour models getting ahead of their evaluation again? Environmental Modelling & Software 41: 65-71.

Albini, FA, Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2012) A mathematical model for predicting the maximum potential spotting distance from a crown fire. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21: 609-627.

Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2012) Modelling the impacts of surface and crown fire behaviour on serotinous cone opening in jack pine and lodgepole pine forests. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21: 709-721.

Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2012) Graphical aids for visualizing Byram’s fireline intensity in relation to flame length and crown scorch height. Forestry Chronicle 88: 185-190.

Jenkins MJ, Page WG, Hebertson EG, Alexander ME (2012) Fuels and fire behavior dynamics in bark-beetle attacked forests in western North America and implications for fire management. Forest Ecology and Management 275: 23-34.

Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2012) Interdependencies between flame length and fireline intensity in predicting crown fire initiation and crown scorch height. International Journal of Wildland Fire21: 95-113.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME (2012) Evaluating regression model estimates of canopy fuel stratum characteristics in four crown fire-prone fuel types in western North America. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21:168-179.

Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2011) Crown fire dynamics in conifer forests. Pages 107-142 in Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Volume 1 for Fire Managers. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-854.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME (2010) Assessing crown fire potential in coniferous forests of western North America: a critique of current approaches and recent simulation studies. International Journal of Wildland Fire 19: 377-398.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Wakimoto RH (2010) Comment on "Estimating canopy fuel characteristics in five conifer stands in the western United States using tree and stand measurements" Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40: 2262-2263.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Fernandes PAM (2008) Development of a model system to predict wildfire behavior in pine plantations. Australian Forestry 71:113-121.

Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2006) Evaluating a model for predicting active crown fire rate of spread using wildfire observations. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 3015-3028.

Cruz MG, Butler BW, Alexander ME, Forthofer JM, Wakimoto RH (2006) Predicting the ignition of crown fuels above a spreading surface fire. Part I: model idealization. International Journal of Wildland Fire 15: 47-60.

Cruz MG, Butler BW, Alexander ME (2006) Predicting the ignition of crown fuels above a spreading surface fire. Part II: model evaluation. International Journal of Wildland Fire 15: 61-72.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Wakimoto RH (2005) Development and testing of models for predicting crown fire rate of spread in conifer forest stands. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 35: 1626-1639.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Wakimoto RH (2004) Modeling the likelihood of crown fire occurrence in conifer forest stands. Forest Science 50(5): 640-658.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Wakimoto RH (2003) Assessing canopy fuel stratum characteristics in crown fire prone fuel types in western North America. International Journal of Wildland Fire 12: 39-50.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Wakimoto RH (2003) Assessing the probability of crown fire initiation based on fire danger indices. Forestry Chronicle 79: 976-983.

Cruz MG, Alexander ME, Wakimoto RH (2003) Definition of a fire behavior model evaluation protocol: a case study application to crown fire behavior models. Pages 49-67 in Omi, P.N.; Joyce, L.A. (tech. eds.).  Fire, Fuel Treatments and Ecological Restoration: Conference Proceedings (Apr. 16-18, 2002, Fort Collins, CO). USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO. Proceedings. RMRS-P-29.

This project is partially funded under the Joint Fire Science Program – 09-S-03-1.

Project ID: FY10NV87