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Wildfire Risk

Fuel Reduction Techniques

Fuel Reduction Techniques

The amount, size, moisture content and arrangement of wildfire fuels influence ease of ignition, rate of fire spread, flame length and other fire behaviors. Fuel treatments include mechanical methods and the use of fire to reduce overall fuel loading and change the spatial arrangement of fuel in stands and landscapes.

Mechanical fuel removal methods include thinning, mowing, and pruning of lower tree branches.

  • Thinning typically removes small diameter trees that may or may not have commercial value. Non-commercial trees and slash can either be chipped and spread over the site or piled and then later burned.
  • A 4-wheel drive tractor with a mowing carriage can be utilized to mow large shrubs and small trees (3" diameter or less), reducing surface and ladder fuels.
  • Pruning lower tree branches with long-handled pruning saws increases tree crown height and makes it more difficult for surface fire to move up into the canopy.

Prescribed fire is also used to reduce surface fuels, usually after the site has been mechanically treated.

A prescribed fire is any fire ignited by management actions under certain pre-determined conditions to meet specific objectives related to hazardous fuels reduction or habitat improvement. An approved prescribed fire plan must exist, and NEPA requirements must be met prior to ignition. Prescribed fires are ignited and managed within a "window" of very specific conditions including winds, temperatures, humidity, and other factors specified in the burn plan.

Wildland fire use is the management of naturally ignited fires to achieve resource benefits, where fire is a major component of the ecosystem. Many natural resource values can be enhanced by allowing fire to play its natural role where private property and social values can be protected.