A JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network
Bringing People Together & Sharing Knowledge in the Northern Rockies

When it's hot, it's hot... or maybe it's not! (Surface flaming may not portend extensive soil heating)

Author(s): Roberta A. Hartford, William H. Frandsen
Year Published: 1992

Fire effects on a plant community, soil, and air are not apparent when judged only by surface fire intensity. The fire severity or fire impact can be described by the temperatures reached within the forest floor and the duration of heating experienced in the vegetation, forest floor, and underlying mineral soil. Temporal distributions of temperatures illustrate heat flow in duff and mineral soil in three instrumented plots: two with slash fuel over moist duff and one with litter fuel over dry duff. Fires in the two slash fuel plots produced substantial flame lengths but minimal heating in the underlying mineral soil. In contrast, smoldering combustion in the dry duff plot produced long duration heating with nearly complete duff consumption and lethal temperatures at the mineral soil surface. Moisture content of duff and soil were key variables for determining fire impact on the forest floor.

Citation: Hartford, Roberta A.; Frandsen, William H. 1992. When it's hot, it's hot... or maybe it's not! (Surface flaming may not portend extensive soil heating). International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2(3): 139-144.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - First Order, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Soil Heating, Ecological - Second Order, Soils, Fire Regime
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine wet spruce-fir forest, Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest, Montane wet mixed-conifer forest, Montane dry mixed-conifer forest
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 7939
FRAMES RCS number: 4259
Record updated: May 10, 2018