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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 glassEstimating the Biomass of Hand-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.


The Joint Fire Science Program published a digest on this work. Full text below under Publications. (August 2010)

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.


Handpile Calculator Pile Calculator [both machine and hand piles] Dowlo


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 872 kb]

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. Full text [.pdf 2 MB]

Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program

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.

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