We subjected 159 small ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex P. & C. Laws.) to treatments designed to test the relative importance of stem damage as a predictor of postfire mortality. The treatments consisted of a group with the basal bark artificially thinned, a second group with fuels removed from the base of the stem, and an untreated control. Following prescribed burning, crown scorch severity was equivalent among the groups. Postfire mortality was significantly less frequent in the fuels removal group than in the bark removal and control groups. No model of mortality for the fuels removal group was possible, because dead trees constituted <4% of subject trees. Mortality in the bark removal group was best predicted by crown scorch and stem scorch severity, whereas death in the control group was predicted by crown scorch severity and bark thickness. The relative lack of mortality in the fuels removal group and the increased sensitivity to stem damage in the bark removal group suggest that stem damage is a critical determinant of postfire mortality for small ponderosa pine.