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Chapter 2: Fire behavior and effects: principles for archaeologists

Author(s): Kevin C. Ryan, Cassandra L. Koerner
Editor(s): Kevin C. Ryan, Ann Trinkle Jones, Cassandra L. Koerner, Kristine M. Lee
Year Published: 2012

Fire is a natural component of earth's ecosystems. Fire has impacted most landscapes of the Americas, having left evidence of its passing in trees, soils, fossils, and cultural artifacts (Andreae 1991; Benton and Reardon 2006; Biswell 1989; Bowman and others 2009; Boyd and others 2005; Cochrane and others 1999; DeBano and others 1998; Jurney and others 2004; Kilgore and Taylor 1979; Moore 1972; Nevle and Bird 2008; Pausas and Keeley 2009; Scott 2000, 2009; Swetnam and Anderson 2008; Swetnam and Betancourt 1990, 1998). Fires burn throughout a range of intensities from smoldering flameless fires producing little if any smoke to creeping fires with short, thin flames to raging crown fires with walls of flames 50 meters (164 feet) high, or more. The duration of a fire’s passing may be as short as tens-of-seconds in the case of a fast moving surface or crown fire or as long as a day in smoldering ground fire. As fires burn throughout this range of intensities and durations the impact on the environment and the cultural resources therein varies tremendously.

Citation: Ryan, Kevin C.; Koerner, Cassandra. 2012. Chapter 2: Fire behavior and effects: principles for archaeologists. In: Ryan, Kevin C.; Jones, Ann Trinkle; Koerner, Cassandra L.; Lee, Kristine M. Wildland fire in ecosystems: effects of fire on cultural resources and archaeology. RMRS-GTR-42 volume 3. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 15-84.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Cultural, Fire History
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Synthesis, Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 12590
TTRS (Tall Timbers Research Station) Number: 29051
Record updated: May 16, 2018