FireWorks for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Northern Cascades - M05: How Do Wildland Fires Spread? The Matchstick Forest Model
Course Type: FireWorks activities
Availability: Public access
Author(s): FireWorks Educational Program
  • Ilana L. Abrahamson
    US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program
Date Created: October 5, 2017

Cataloging Information

  • backing fire
  • crown fire
  • fire spread
  • ground fire
  • head fire
  • slope
  • stand density
  • surface fire
  • topography
Partner Site(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 20, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 25040


Lesson Overview: In this activity, students use a physical model to learn how slope and the density of trees (or other kinds of standing fuels) affect fire spread.

Lesson Goal: Increase students' understanding of wildland fire spread in forests and other kinds of standing fuels.


  • Students plan experiments and make observations to investigate the effect of one variable at a time on fire spread.
  • Students use the Fire Triangle (from Unit II) to explain how slope and density of trees (or other standing fuels) affect fire spread.