Some theory and observations are presented on the factors governing the start and spread of crown fire in conifer forests. Crown fires are classified in three ways according to the degree of dependence of the crown phase of the fire on the ground surface phase. The crown fuel is pictured as a layer of uniform bulk density and height above ground. Simple criteria are presented for the initiation of crown combustion and for the minimum rates of spread and heat transfer into the crown combustion zone at which the crown fire will spread. The theory is partially supported by some observations in four kinds of conifer forest.
[This publication is referenced in the "Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers" (Werth et al 2011).]