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Characterizing fire behavior from laboratory burns of multi-aged, mixed-conifer masticated fuels in the western United States

Posted date: June 12, 2018
Publication Year: 
2018
Publication Series: 
Research Paper (RP)
Source: RMRS-RP-107. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 23 p.

Abstract

Mastication is the process of chipping or shredding components of the tree canopy or above-ground vegetation to reduce the canopy, alter fire spread rates, and reduce crown fire potential. Mastication as a fuel treatment, either alone or in combination with prescribed fire, has been the subject of much research. This research has shown that modeling expected fire behavior in these fuels is challenging. Masticated materials from different ecosystems are unique and may react differently to fire. Therefore, there are no standard guidelines to help managers understand the potential fire behavior in treated areas. In this study, we evaluated burn characteristics for several mixed-conifer masticated fuels that range from 0 to 10 years since treatment. Overall, there was great variety in observed fire behavior, and time since treatment did not affect fire behavior characteristics. The method used to masticate fuel has some impact on burning, with larger pieces of fuel tending to act as a barrier to fire spread. From our limited experimental burns, fire behavior in the laboratory was best represented by the SB1 (low load activity fuels) fuel model. These results may not reflect how variations in fuel bed moisture and in situ environment would alter fire behavior characteristics in masticated fuels in management units.

Citation

Heinsch, Faith Ann; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Smith, Helen Y.; Retzlaff, Molly L. 2018. Characterizing fire behavior from laboratory burns of multi-aged, mixed-conifer masticated fuels in the western United States. RMRS-RP-107. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 23 p.
National Strategic Program Areas: 
Wildland Fire and Fuels