USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
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Publications and Products

Title: Behaviour and effects of prescribed fire in masticated fuelbeds

Authors: Knapp, Eric; Varner, J. Morgan; Busse, Matt; Skinner, Carl; Shestak, Carol

Date: 2011

Source International Journal of Wildland Fire

Abstract: Mechanical mastication converts shrub and small tree fuels into surface fuels, and this method is being widely used as a treatment to reduce fire hazard. The compactness of these fuelbeds is thought to moderate fire behaviour, but whether standard fuel models can accurately predict fire behaviour and effects is poorly understood. Prescribed burns were conducted in young ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Laws.) forests at two sites in northern California where the midstorey layer dominated by shrubs had been masticated. Surface fuels were raked from the base of a subset of trees before burning. Rate of spread and flame length were estimated for both backing and heading fires, soil heating measured with thermocouples and tree fire injury recorded. Standard fuel models often over-predicted rate of spread or under-predicted flame length. Custom models generally provided a better balance between the slow rates of spread and moderate flame lengths observed in prescribed burns. Post-fire tree mortality was most strongly associated with crown scorch and tree size; raking fuels from the base of trees did not improve survival. Under severe fire weather conditions, fire behaviour and effect models as well as observations from wildfires suggest that mastication may be more effective for moderating fire behaviour than reducing residual tree mortality. Treating masticated fuels with prescribed burns could potentially improve the resilience of stands to wildfire.

Keywords: crown scorch, fuel treatment, Pinus ponderosa, post-fire tree mortality

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    Knapp, Eric; Varner, J. Morgan; Busse, Matt; Skinner, Carl; Shestak, Carol. 2011. Behaviour and effects of prescribed fire in masticated fuelbeds. International Journal of Wildland Fire, Vol. 20: 932-945.
Last Modified: September 12, 2012