FireWorks for the Sagebrush Ecosystem - M05: Using Matchstick Models to Explore Wildland Fires
Course Type: FireWorks activities
Availability: Public access
Author(s): FireWorks Educational Program
Date Created: 2018

Cataloging Information

  • fire spread
  • fuel arrangement
  • slope
  • tree density
Partner Site(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 17, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 25848


Overview: In this lesson, students use matchstick models to investigate two of the variables that affect the spread of wildland fire:

  • slope (a feature of topography) and
  • density of trees, shrubs or other standing fuels.

While this activity is especially well-suited to studying tree density, the principles apply equally well to any vertical fuel arrangement, including the tall shrubs and other native plants found in the sagebrush ecosystem.

Lesson Goals:

  • Increase students’ understanding of the relationship between slope and stand density on fire spread
  • Develop student skills in using models, experimentation, and written/oral communication


  • Students will create models of tree stands/shrubland to test the effect of slope and stand density on fire spread.
  • Students will explain how slope and fuel density affect fire spread verbally and in writing.