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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Nicole M. Vaillant; Josephine A. Fites-Kaufman; Scott L. Stephens
Publication Date: 2009

Effective fire suppression and land use practices over the last century have altered forest structure and increased fuel loads in many forests in the United States, increasing the occurrence of catastrophic wildland fires. The most effective methods to change potential fire behavior are to reduce surface fuels, increase the canopy base height and reduce canopy bulk density. This multi-tiered approach breaks up the continuity of surface, ladder and crown fuels. Effectiveness of fuel treatments is often shown indirectly through fire behavior modeling or directly through monitoring wildland fire effects such as tree mortality. The present study investigates how prescribed fire affected fuel loads, forest structure, potential fire behavior, and modeled tree mortality at 90th and 97.5th percentile fire weather conditions on eight National Forests in California. Prescription burning did not significantly change forest structure at most sites. Total fuel loads (litter, duff, 1, 10, 100, and 1000-h) were reduced by 23 to 78% across the sites. The reduction in fuel loads altered potential fire behavior by reducing fireline intensity and increasing torching index and crowning index at most sites. Predicted tree mortality decreased after treatment as an effect of reduced potential fire behavior and fuel loads. To use limited fuel hazard reduction resources efficiently, more effort could be placed on the evaluation of existing fire hazards because several stands in the present study had little potential for adverse fire effects before prescribed fire was applied.

Online Links
Citation: Vaillant, Nicole M.; Fites-Kaufman, Jo Ann; Stephens, Scott L. 2009. Effectiveness of prescribed fire as a fuel treatment in Californian coniferous forests. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18(2):165-175.

Cataloging Information

  • catastrophic fires
  • coniferous forests
  • crown fires
  • diameter classes
  • duff
  • fire hazard reduction
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire suppression
  • firebreak
  • forest management
  • fuel loading
  • fuel management
  • fuel types
  • Fuels Management Analyst
  • Jeffrey pine
  • ladder fuels
  • land use
  • litter
  • mortality
  • national forests
  • overstory
  • Pinus jeffreyi
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • ponderosa pine
  • population density
  • size classes
  • suppression
  • surface fuels
  • vegetation surveys
  • wildfires
Tall Timbers Record Number: 23437Location Status: In-fileCall Number: Journals-IAbstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 8603

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by Tall Timbers 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 Tall Timbers.