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Fire behaviour in masticated forest fuels: lab and prescribed fire experiments

Author(s): Zachary D. Lyon, Penelope Morgan, Camille Stevens-Rumann, Aaron M. Sparks, Robert F. Keefe, Alistair M. S. Smith
Year Published: 2018

Managers masticate fuels to reduce extreme fire hazards, but the effect on fire behaviour within the resulting compact fuelbeds is poorly understood. We burned 54 masticated fuelbeds in laboratory experiments one and two growing seasons after mastication and 75 masticated fuelbeds in prescribed fire experiments one growing season after treatment in three replicate Pinus ponderosa stands. Mastication treatments reduced density of trees >5 cm diameter by 30–72% resulting in total fuel depth of 6.9–13.7 cm and surface woody fuel loading of 1.0–16.0 kg m−2. Flame length and rate of spread were low and similar for coarse and fine mastication treatments and controls. Smouldering combustion lasted 6–22 h in prescribed fire experiments where fuelbeds included duff and were well mixed by machinery, compared with <2 h in the laboratory where fuelbeds did not include duff and had varying fuel moisture. Fuel consumption in the prescribed fires was highly variable, ranging from 0 to 20 cm in depth and was less from 2-year-old fuelbeds than 1-year-old fuelbeds in laboratory burns. Compared with fine mastication treatments, coarse treatments took less time to implement and were more cost-effective. Although laboratory experiments expand our understanding of burning masticated fuels under controlled conditions, they did not readily translate to prescribed burning conditions where fuels, weather and ignition patterns were more variable. This highlights the need for more laboratory experiments and in situ research that together can be used to develop much-needed, scalable predictive models of mastication combustion.

Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Fuels, Fuel Treatments & Effects, Mechanical treatments
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 17949
Record updated: Jul 12, 2018