A simulation of wildfire behavior in piedmont forestsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Decades of fire exclusion have increased the need for fuel reduction in U.S. forests. The buildup of excessive fuels has led to uncharacteristically severe fires in areas with historically short-interval, low to moderate intensity fire regimes. The National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study compares the impacts of three fuel reduction treatments on numerous response variables. At a National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study research site in the South Carolina Piedmont, fuels were altered by burning, thinning, and a combination of burning and thinning. Each treatment produced a unique fuel complex and altered microclimate for surface fuels by opening the stands to wind and light. We designed the fuel-reduction treatments to minimize damage if a wildfire were to occur, but we found fire behavior in each treatment area difficult to predict. We evaluate wildfire behavior after the fuel-reduction treatments using the BehavePlus2 fire modeling system. Custom fuel models for each treatment were developed from inventories of the litter layer, dead woody fuels, and live fuels. Microclimate variables affected by each treatment, such as crown closure, temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed, were collected over four fire seasons and used as model input. Simulation results will help determine the value of fuel reduction treatments.