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

Logo of the Pacific Northwest Research Station

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

USDA Link Forest Service Link


MagnifyEstimating the Biomass of Piled Fuels for Smoke Management Planning

Land managers needed a tool to accurately and efficiently estimated the biomass of hand-piled fuels as pile burning becomes a more widespread and common method for treating high fire hazard areas with heavy surface fuels. Past pile characterization research dealt only with large, crane-constructed and tractor-built piles which have different physical properties and contain larger fuel particles (tree boles and large limbs).

In this study, we:

  • Measured and weighed hand-constructed piles to determine the relationships between pile composition, pile size and pile biomass, and
  • Sampled different vegetation types and pile sizes to develop equations for estimating hand-pile biomass.

The calculated developed by this project allows land managers to more accurately assess biomass in hand piles, leading to better smoke production estimates, improved burn scheduling, and more accurate compliance with the maximum allowable emissions limits as determined by various state smoke management plans.


Enhancements have been made to to (1) incorporate machine-pile algorithms present available in Consume 3.0; (2) add the ability to batch process multiple pile inputs for biomass and emissions estimates, and (c) provide a standalone version for users who require access to the calculator when Internet access is unavailable.

Pile Calculator




Joint Fire Science Program. 2010. A new online tool and estimates for hand-pile biomass and smoke production. Fire Science Brief. Issue 90.
Full text [.pdf]

Wright, Clinton S.; Balog, Cameron S.; Kelly, Jeffrey, W. 2009. Estimating volume, biomass, and potential emissions of hand-piled fuels. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-805. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 23 p.
Abstract and full text [.html]

Wright, Clinton S.; Eagle, Paige C.; Balog, Cameron S. 2010. Characterizing hand-piled fuels. Fire Management Today. Abstract and full text [.html]

Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program


Local Installation of Pile Calculator

This calculator will run just like the website, but does not require Internet access.

1. Save the file, pile_calculator_01042011.exe, on your computer in the desired location.

2. Double-click on the self-extracting file, pile_calculator_10142011.exe and unzip it into a folder of your choice (e.g., c:\Pile_Calculator). Administrative access privileges are not required.

3. Double-click on the file piles.exe to run the calculator. This will start your default web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox) and run the calculator. If your browser returns an error message, click the Refresh button.


Project Lead: Clint Wright

Logo of the Joint Fire Science ProgramWe acknowledge funding from the Joint Fire Science Program under Project JFSP 07-2-1-57 and 10-S-02-2.

Disclaimers | FOIAPrivacy Policy | Quality of InformationPrint This Page
USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.