Live Fuels and Fire Behavior Research

Wildland fires are a common global ecosystem disturbance and they spread through a combination of living and dead vegetation. Historically, research on fuel ignition and fire behavior characteristics has focused on dead fuels that are easily manipulated in the field and laboratory. However, live fuels represents a large part of the wildland fuel complex and little is known about the key factors that drive their inter- and intra-species variations in flammability.

Scientists at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, in partnership with various regional and global partners, are continually developing and refining studies that examine the complex relationships between fuel moisture, chemistry, physical and thermal characteristics that can influence live wildland fuel ignition, spread rates and intensities. Our work spans a range of methods from small-scale benchtop experiments in the laboratory to large-scale field prescribed burns. Additionally, in partnership with researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratories, we leverage computational fluid dynamics-based fire behavior simulators to create controlled numerical experiments to explore these complex interactions.

This work is leading to entirely new conceptual models that describe these complex linkages in ways that can be directly integrated into fire danger and fire behavior modeling systems.


Photo of wildfire

Select Publications & Products

Jolly, W. Matt; Hintz, John; Linn, Rodman L.; Kropp, Rachael C.; Conrad, Elliot T.; Parsons, Russell A.; Winterkamp, Judith. 2016. Seasonal variations in red pine (Pinus resinosa) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) foliar physio-chemistry and their potential influence on stand-scale wildland fire behavior. Forest Ecology and Management. 373: 167-178.

Qi, Yi; Jolly, W. Matt; Dennison, Philip E.; Kropp, Rachael C. 2016. Seasonal relationships between foliar moisture content, heat content and biochemistry of lodge pole pine and big sagebrush foliage. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 25: 574-578.

Jolly, W. Matt; Hadlow, Ann M.; Huguet, Kathleen. 2014. De-coupling seasonal changes in water content and dry matter to predict live conifer foliar moisture content. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 23(4): 480-489.