Daniel A. Cowan, Wesley G. Page, Bret W. Butler, David L. Blunck
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Cataloging Information

Fire Behavior

NRFSN number: 21936
FRAMES RCS number: 61965
Record updated: September 29, 2020

The slow-moving flameless burning of wildland fuels (i.e. smouldering) can be difficult to detect and challenging to extinguish. Although previous research involving the smouldering of organic fuels (e.g. cotton, cellulose, peat) has investigated the influence of various fuel characteristics (e.g. moisture content, inorganic content, bulk density) on spread rate and surface temperatures, the smouldering behaviour of other common fuels is not well understood. This study expands on previous research to better understand how fuel characteristics influence the smouldering behaviour of duff from coniferous forests. Specifically, horizontal spread rates (0.5-19.5 cm h−1) and ground surface temperatures (258-392°C) were measured on 52 duff samples collected from underneath mature ponderosa pine trees (Pinus ponderosa) from sites in the Pacific Northwest, USA, and evaluated in terms of their moisture content (6-113%), inorganic content (3-42%), bulk density (34-130 kg m−3) and fuel depth (3.8-16.3 cm). The data suggested that horizontal spread rates decrease when inorganic content, inorganic loading and/or moisture loading of the duff increases. Surface temperatures decrease when inorganic bulk density and/or fuel loading increases. Conversely, surface temperatures decrease when moisture content increases for shallow duff. Higher fuel loading increases the likelihood of smouldering below the surface.


Cowan, Daniel A.; Page, Wesley G.; Butler, Bret W.; Blunck, David L. 2020. Effects of fuel characteristics on horizontal spread rate and ground surface temperatures of smouldering duff. International Journal of Wildland Fire 29(9):820-831.

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