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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Deborah K. Kennard; Kenneth W. Outcalt; David Jones; Joseph J. O'Brien
Publication Date: 2005

A variety of techniques that estimate temperature and/or heat output during fires are available. We assessed the predictive ability of metal and tile pyrometers, calorimeters of different sizes, and fuel consumption to time-temperature metrics derived from thick and thin thermocouples at 140 points distributed over 9 management-scale burns in a longleaf pine forest in the southeastern US. While all of these devices underestimate maximum flame temperatures, we found several to be useful for characterizing other metrics of fire behavior. While the degree to which thermocouples underestimated maximum temperatures was based on thickness, metrics derived from thermocouple data that integrated time and temperature minimized this discrepancy between thin and thick thermocouples. Thermocouples also provided the most detailed spatial and temporal data of the devices tested. Pyrometers underestimated maximum temperatures relative to thermocouples, but due to their low cost, can be useful for examining spatial variation in temperature during fires. Use of calorimeters is disadvantageous given their lack of precision and high labor cost. Simple fire behavior observations taken during burns and indicators of fire severity observed post-burn were inexpensive to estimate and revealed useful differences among fires. Due to the wide variation among these techniques in cost, labor, accuracy, and level of detail of results, their suitability for a particular project will vary according to research objectives and available resources. Researchers should ensure that the fire behavior parameter measured has a logical relationship to the effect of interest, is measured at an appropriate level of detail, and is reported with attention to the limitations of the measuring devices used.

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Citation: Kennard, Deborah K.; Outcalt, Kenneth W.; Jones, David; O'Brien, Joseph J. 2005. Comparing techniques for estimating flame temperature of prescribed fires. Fire Ecology 1(1):75-84.

Cataloging Information

Administration    Economics    Fire Behavior    Fire Ecology    Fire Effects    Fuels    Logistics    Models    Planning    Prescribed Fire
  • Alabama
  • Andropogon spp.
  • backfire
  • biomass
  • calorimeters
  • char
  • charring
  • coastal plain
  • Dicanthelium
  • ecology
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • field experimental fires
  • fire equipment
  • fire intensity
  • fire management planning
  • fire size
  • fire temperature
  • flame length
  • flammability
  • fuel consumption
  • fuel loading
  • fuel management
  • grasses
  • heat
  • heat effects
  • herbicide
  • Ilex glabra
  • Ilex vomitoria
  • incendiary fires
  • litter
  • longleaf pine
  • Panicum spp.
  • pine forests
  • Pinus palustris
  • Pinus taeda
  • plant ecology
  • plant growth
  • plant physiology
  • pyrometers
  • Quercus falcata
  • Quercus laevis
  • Quercus laurifolia
  • Quercus stellata
  • rate of spread
  • roots
  • sampling
  • season of fire
  • seeds
  • SFP - Southern Fire Portal
  • site treatments
  • soils
  • spot fires
  • temperature
  • thermocouples
  • thinning
  • understory vegetation
  • wildfires
  • woody fuels
Tall Timbers Record Number: 18471Location Status: In-fileCall Number: Fire FileAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 4457

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of Tall Timbers.