FireWorks for the Northern California Oak Woodlands - M.2.4: Ladder Fuels and Fire Spread: The Tinker Tree Derby
Course Type: FireWorks activities
Availability: Public access
Author(s): FireWorks Educational Program
Date Created: October 5, 2021

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Record Last Modified: October 22, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 64544


Lesson Overview: In this activity, students use a physical model to learn how the vertical arrangement of fuels affects the potential for fires to spread into tree crowns. This activity applies mainly to forests, shrublands, and woodlands. It is especially relevant to oak woodlands where surface fires have been excluded for nearly a century.

Lesson Goal: Increase students’ understanding of the relationship between fuel arrangement and vertical fire spread, especially in forests, shrublands, and woodlands.


  • Students can design a model tree that can keep a surface fire from spreading into the crown.
  • Students can differentiate between forest stands based on the spatial arrangement of fuels.
  • Students can describe the kinds of fuels that contribute to surface fires and crown fires.