Power-law behaviour and parametric models for the size-distribution of forest fires
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): W. J. Reed; K. S. McKelvey
Publication Year: 2002

Cataloging Information

  • Alberta
  • Canada
  • distribution
  • extinguishment growth rate ratio
  • fire area
  • fire management
  • fire size
  • forest management
  • Idaho
  • national forests
  • power-law
  • self-organized criticality
  • size distribution
  • statistical analysis
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 50288
Tall Timbers Record Number: 26872
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Not in File
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy 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 the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


This paper examines the distribution of areas burned in forest fires. Empirical size distributions, derived from extensive fire records, for six regions in North America are presented. While they show some commonalities, it appears that a simple power-law distribution of sizes, as has been suggested by some authors, is too simple to describe the distributions over their full range. A stochastic model for the spread and extinguishment of fires is used to examine conditions for power-law behaviour and deviations from it. The concept of the extinguishment growth rate ratio (EGRR) is developed. A null model with constant EGRR leads to a power-law distribution, but this does not appear to hold empirically for the data sets examined. Some alternative parametric forms for the size distribution are presented, with a four-parameter 'competing hazards' model providing the overall best fit. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Reed, W. J., and K. S. McKelvey. 2002. Power-law behaviour and parametric models for the size-distribution of forest fires. Ecological Modelling, v. 150, no. 3, p. 239-254.