Recent ecosystem and fire management research aims to quantify, model and understand historical fire disturbances focusing on their frequency, size and distribution. Less attention, however, has been paid to fire boundaries and their location on the landscape. Our study presents a spatial method to quantify the location, pattern and persistence of historical fire boundaries using tree ring fire scar data in the lower Stein watershed (British Columbia). Data from Pinus ponderosa and Pseudotsuga menziesii collected in 35 one-hectare plots over a 412-hectare study area were analyzed for the period between 1879 and 1947 using local spatial statistics and boundary detection techniques. Results of the analysis using local spatial statistic Moran's I showed significant clustering of boundaries near topographic breaks. To determine and test whether fire boundaries between plots were persistent, we used boundary detection methods and developed a spatially restricted randomization test. The results revealed that out of 86 possible boundary links, 8 were significantly persistent (P < 0.025) while another 8 were significantly rare (P < 0.025). These spatial methods can help determine the historical spatial configuration of persistent boundaries and can be used to maintain natural forest dynamics. © Springer-Science+Business Media, LLC 2007.