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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Icon of magnifying glassThe Fuel Characteristic Classification System

**FCCS version 3.0 is not available as a stand-alone program. It has been incorporated into the Fuel and Fire Tools **

The Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) calculates and classifies fuelbed characteristics and their potential fire behavior. Users may access fuelbeds from a fuelbed library or create their own custom fuelbeds. 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. FCCS fuelbeds have been mapped in LANDFIRE and are preloaded in the Fuel and Fire Tools application. Regional fuelbed datasets representing a range of vegetation types and management scenarios for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (WA), central Oregon, northeastern Oregon and Lake Tahoe (CA) are available. Users can customize FCCS fuelbeds to create a set of fuelbeds representing any scale of interest.

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. Outputs are available 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 benchmark environmental conditions (no slope, 4 mph midflame wind speed, and dry fuel moistures).

The FCCS predicts surface fire behavior, including reaction intensity (BTU ft-1 min-1), flame length (ft), and rate of spread (ft min-1) based on benchmark and user-specified environmental conditions. By comparing predicted flame length and rate of spread, FCCS provides a crosswalk to one of the original 13 Fire Behavior Prediction System fuel models and one of the 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)


FCCS facilitates the mapping of fuelbed characteristics and fire hazard assessment (, by providing fuelbeds, fuelbed characteristics, and associated predicted surface fire behavior, crown fire, and available fuel potentials. FCCS also provides the necessary inputs to run fuel consumption and emission production models, such as Consume v. 4.2, the Fire Emissions Production Simulator (FEPS v. 2.0), BlueSky, and the Wildland Fire Emissions Inventory System (WFEIS).

The system is currently being showcased as a tool to map fuelbeds and fire hazard, which allows managers to maximize fuel treatment effectiveness on the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, and on the Deschutes National Forest. FERA has also demonstrated the use of FCCS as the basis for a national air pollutant and carbon emission inventory, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. LANDFIRE includes a map layer of the FCCS fuelbeds throughout the United States which can be used for fuel treatment decision support at larger scales.

The FCCS has been shared with managers and scientists in over 30 regional workshops across the United States and through eight published papers in a special section of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research (CJFR). 

FCCS Program Development History

The following sections document changes to each version of FCCS, from the most recent version to the earlier modified version.

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 improved these issues:

  • User input screens are now 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 were:

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

FCCS v. 2.0 enhancements included:

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

FCCS v 1.1 offered the following modifications:

  1. 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 windspeed
    • Dry fuel conditions (D2L2 moisture scenario after Andrews et al. 2005).
  2. 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).
  3. The FCCS webpage now includes references in PDF format for each of the FCCS fuelbeds.


Team Lead: Roger Ottmar


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