Characterizing Canopy Fuels as They Affect Fire Behavior in Pitch Pine

Master's Thesis by Matthew Duveneck FEBUARY 2005


Fire managers in the Northeast are increasingly concerned about crown fire development in pitch pine (Pinus rigida) P. Mill. Increased awareness of eastern crown fire problems has led to increased interest in predicting the development and behavior of crown fires in pitch pine. Models developed in the western United States exist to predict crown fire behavior. Managers in the Northeast, however, have relied on western data to predict crown fire behavior in pitch pine stands. Pitch pine-specific inputs to these models, most notably canopy bulk density (CBD), have not been available to northeastern fire managers. The objective of this study is to add pitch pine crown characteristics to the body of data on canopy fuel characteristics. Following destructive sampling of 31 pitch pine trees in Montague and on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, I developed predictive equations that will enable fire managers to predict CBD in pitch pine based on the indirect variable diameter at breast height (r2>0.93). To demonstrate the application of the predictive equations, I calculated the wind speed needed to sustain an active crown fire in a treated and an untreated pitch pine stand in Montague. The results indicate that CBD, calculated with the equations I derived, can be manipulated to reduce the threat of catastrophic crown fire.