Modeling fuel succession

Fire Management Today
By: , and 



Surface fuels data are of critical importance for supporting fire incident management, risk assessment, and fuel management planning, but the development of surface fuels data can be expensive and time consuming. The data development process is extensive, generally beginning with acquisition of remotely sensed spatial data such as aerial photography or satellite imagery (Keane and others 2001). The spatial vegetation data are then crosswalked to a set of fire behavior fuel models that describe the available fuels (the burnable portions of the vegetation) (Anderson 1982, Scott and Burgan 2005). Finally, spatial fuels data are used as input to tools such as FARSITE and FlamMap to model current and potential fire spread and behavior (Finney 1998, Finney 2006).

The capture date of the remotely sensed data defines the period for which the vegetation, and, therefore, fuels, data are most accurate. The more time that passes after the capture date, the less accurate the data become due to vegetation growth and processes such as fire. Subsequently, the results of any fire simulation based on these data become less accurate as the data age. Because of the amount of labor and expense required to develop these data, keeping them updated may prove to be a challenge. 

In this article, we describe the Sierra Nevada Fuel Succession Model, a modeling tool that can quickly and easily update surface fuel models with a minimum of additional input data. Although it was developed for use by Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, it is applicable to much of the central and southern Sierra Nevada. Furthermore, the methods used to develop the model have national applicability.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeling fuel succession
Series title Fire Management Today
Volume 69
Issue 2
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher U.S. Forest Service
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 4 p.
First page 18
Last page 21