Short communication: On the effect of live fuel moisture content on fire-spread rate

Carlos G. Rossa, Paulo M. Fernandes


Aim of study: To reconcile the effects of live fuel moisture content (FMC) on fire rate of spread (ROS) derived from laboratory and field fires.

Methods: The analysis builds on evidence from previous fire-spread experimental studies and on a comparison between two functions for the FMC damping effect: one derived from field burns, based on dead FMC, and another derived from laboratory trials, based on a weighted FMC (dead and live fuels).

Main results: In a typical Mediterranean shrubland, laboratory and field-derived FMC damping functions are linearly related, which is explained by the correlation between monthly average live and dead FMC variation throughout the year. This clarifies why the effect of live FMC on real-world fires ROS has remained elusive.

Research highlights: By providing evidence that the most significant effect of FMC on ROS is independent of vegetation phenology (dead or live condition), and explaining why in specific situations dead FMC is sufficient to provide satisfactory ROS predictions, our results can assist future modelling efforts.


fire behaviour; forest fuels; plant phenology; combustion

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2017263-12019