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Unit 2: Fuels Classification

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Distribution & Behavior   ::   Characteristics   ::   Timelag & Life Cycle   ::   Availability   ::   Models   ::   Exercises


This unit is about fuels in the fire environment. In order to make reliable estimates of fire behavior, we must understand the relationship of fuels to the fire environment and be able to recognize the variations in these fuels.
Upon completion of this unit you will be expected to:

  • State how each of the three components making up the fire environment can vary over time and space to produce changes in the behavior of a wildfire.
  • List and give examples of the three methods of heat transfer, and give three methods of mass transport of firebrands on fires.
  • Give four primary environmental factors affecting each: ignition, fire intensity, and rate of spread of wildfires.
  • Discuss the relationship of fires of differing intensities to their environments.
  • Describe the behavior of fires in standard fire behavior terminology.
  • Give four necessary input values and five output values of a fire behavior prediction model.
  • Give five reasons why the results of a fire behavior prediction model may differ from the observed fire behavior.


In fire control language, fuel is any organic material--living or dead, in the ground, on the ground, or in the air--that will ignite and burn. Fuels are found in almost infinite combinations of kind, amount, size, shape, position, and arrangement. The fuel on a given acre may vary from a few hundred pounds of sparse grass to 100 or more tons of large and small logging slash. It may consist of dense conifer crowns, heavy and deep litter and duff, or underground peat. Any one composite fuel system is referred to as a fuel complex and has built-in flammability potential.
We can predict fire behavior to a large extent by analyzing the physical properties and characteristics of fuels. Topographic and weather factors must also be considered before rate of spread and general behavior of fires can be determined.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, September 28). Unit 2: Fuels Classification. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License