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Unit 3: Topography & Fire Behavior

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Effects of Slope and Elevation on Fuel Types, Loadings, and Availability

The graphic below provides some fire statistics from the northern Rocky Mountain area. It gives the percents of fires in three slope positions and level areas that reach sizes of 10 acres or more.

Fire Danger by Slope Position

In the figure below, we have fire occurrence statistics on the percent of fires by aspects. South and southwest facing slopes typically have the greatest numbers of fires. Why?

Fire Occurence by Aspect

In the graphic below, we see how the size of fires is affected by aspect. The percent of fires reaching sizes of 10 acres or more is greatest on southwest aspects. Why?

Fire Occurence by Aspect

The best answer to this question is that on sunny days the southwest aspect would receive the longest heat period before sunset. Burning conditions are usually highest on this aspect, since the active burning period is extended by higher burning conditions.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, October 20). Unit 3: Topography & Fire Behavior. 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