Biomass characterization and fire behavior documentation were carried out on two large (>2000 ha) experimental fires conducted in arid savanna fuels in Kruger National Park in September 1992. Prefire fuel loads, fuel consumption, spread rates, flame zone characteristics, and in-fire and perimeter wind field dynamics were measured in order to determine overall energy release rates for each fire. Convection column dynamics were also measured in support of airborne trace gas and particulate measurements. Energy release rates varied significantly between the two fires, and this was strongly reflected in convection column development. The lower-intensity fire produced a weak, poorly defined smoke plume, while a well-developed column with a capping cumulus top developed during the higher intensity fire. Further experimental burning studies, in savannas with higher fuel loads, are recommended to further explore the fire behavior-convection column dynamics relationship investigated in this study. © 1996 by the American Geophysical Union.