Crown Fire Behavior Characteristics and Prediction in Conifer Forests: A State of Knowledge Synthesis
Principal Investigator(s):
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
  • Laura L. Burris
    US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
  • Rebecca A. Slick
    US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Completion Date: July 11, 2013

Cataloging Information

  • crown fire
  • crown fire dynamics
  • literature review
  • synthesis
JFSP Project Number(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 26, 2022
FRAMES Record Number: 15636


The focus of the proposed project will be on synthesizing the available information on crown fire behavior related to conifer forests (e.g., the onset of crowning, type of crown fire and the associated spread rate and fireline intensity, convection column development, spotting, fire-induced vortices). A critical synthesis on crown fire behavior must rest upon as solid a foundation of knowledge as is possible at this time. A sufficient body of scientific, peer-reviewed literature of a practical nature to undertake a synthesis on crown fire behavior presently exists. The literature includes articles published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, International Journal of Wildland Fire, Forest Science, Forestry Chronicle, and Australian Forestry. Many of the specific target articles can currently be viewed on the Firehouse website. Input and operational experiences from fire and land managers will also be surveyed and assessed as well as non-refereed publications. The synthesis will be global in nature and is intended for multiple audiences ranging from the general public to college students to fire and land managers to university professors). Publication of the synthesis will be patterned after the popular Australian book Grass Fires: Fuel, Weather and Fire Behaviour published by CSIRO (2nd ed. 2008) and accompanied by a multimedia DVD featuring video imagery and other supporting documentation (e.g., references cited). It is presently envisioned that the book will consist of some 19 chapters ranging from the nature, general characteristics and classification of crown fires to current knowledge regarding crown fire cessation to the operational prediction of crown fire behavior. Data and information, including video footage, obtained during wildfire monitoring and documentation by the USDA Forest Services Adaptive Management Enterprise Services Team (AMEST) fire behavior assessment unit during the past six years will be utilized in the preparation of the DVD and in evaluating existing models for predicting crown fire behavior. AMEST wildfire monitoring activities during the 2010-2012 fire seasons will accordingly be cognizant of certain features associated with crown fire dynamics that should be looked for. A special issue of Fire Management Today devoted to crown fire behavior will serve to highlight the main conclusions and findings contained in the book. A number of outreach activities are planned to solicit input from land managers about the project using the network of fire research and management contacts developed by the project investigators. For example, establishment of a crown fire behavior synthesis neighborhood on MyFireCommunity.Net created by the Widland Fire Lessons Learned Center. An active dialogue on all aspects of the project will be maintained with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) Fire Behavior Committee, including a critique of the crown fire component of the S-190, S-290, S-390 and S-490 fire behavior courses. Completion of the manuscripts associated with the two major synthesis documents is expected to take 36 months (October 2009-September 2012). The JFSP Board has approved for funding Project 09-2-01-11 led by P.A. Werth. This project will undoubtedly have a heavy focus on the meteorological and related topographic interactions associated with extreme fire behavior given the backgrounds and experience of the investigators. The present proposal is designed to compliment, not duplicate these efforts. The proposed project will focus solely on crown fire dynamics in conifer forests with a greater emphasis on the fuel component of the fire environment (e.g., moisture content, quantity, bulk density, vertical and horizontal arrangement). The ability to predict fire spread rates and fireline intensities in other fuel complexes (grasslands, shrublands, and activity fuels) will be compared against the knowledge available on crown fires in conifer forest fuel types.