Assessing crown fire potential in coniferous forests of western North America: a critique of current approaches and recent simulation studies
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Miguel G. Cruz; Martin E. Alexander
Publication Year: 2010

Cataloging Information

  • BehavePlus
  • Canada
  • canopy base height
  • CBD - canopy bulk density
  • CFIS - Crown Fire Initiation and Spread System
  • conifer forests
  • coniferous forests
  • crown fire behavior
  • crown fires
  • crown fraction burned
  • crowning
  • Crowning Index
  • dead fuel moisture
  • dead fuels
  • experimental fire
  • FARSITE - Fire Area Simulator
  • FFE-FVS - Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator
  • fire behavior modeling
  • fire case histories
  • fire control
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire models
  • fireline intensity
  • FlamMap
  • FMAPlus - Fuels Management Analyst Plus
  • foliage
  • foliar moisture
  • forest structure
  • fuel loading
  • fuel management
  • fuel models
  • fuel moisture
  • moisture
  • overstory
  • rate of spread
  • Rothermel's wildland fire spread model
  • statistical analysis
  • surface fires
  • Torching Index
  • Van Wagner's crown fire initiation model
  • wildfires
  • wind
  • wind speed
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 5, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 8109
Tall Timbers Record Number: 24962
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals - I
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, 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.


To control and use wildland fires safely and effectively depends on creditable assessments of fire potential, including the propensity for crowning in conifer forests. Simulation studies that use certain fire modelling systems (i.e. NEXUS, FlamMap, FARSITE, FFE-FVS (Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator), Fuel Management Analyst (FMAPlus), BehavePlus) based on separate implementations or direct integration of Rothermel's surface and crown rate of fire spread models with Van Wagner's crown fire transition and propagation models are shown to have a significant under prediction bias when used in assessing potential crown fire behaviour in conifer forests of western North America. The principal sources of this under prediction bias are shown to include: (i) incompatible model linkages; (ii) use of surface and crown fire rate of spread models that have an inherent under prediction bias; and (iii) reduction in crown fire rate of spread based on the use of unsubstantiated crown fraction burned functions. The use of uncalibrated custom fuel models to represent surface fuelbeds is a fourth potential source of bias. These sources are described and documented in detail based on comparisons with experimental fire and wildfire observations and on separate analyses of model components. The manner in which the two primary canopy fuel inputs influencing crown fire initiation (i.e. foliar moisture content and canopy base height) is handled in these simulation studies and the meaning of Scott and Reinhardt's two crown fire hazard indices are also critically examined.

[This publication is referenced in the "Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers" (Werth et al 2011).]

Online Link(s):
Cruz, Miguel G.; Alexander, Martin E. 2010. Assessing crown fire potential in coniferous forests of western North America: a critique of current approaches and recent simulation studies. International Journal of Wildland Fire 19(4):377-398.

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