Modeling thinning effects on fire behavior with STANDFIRE

  • Russell A. Parsons
  • Francois Pimont
  • Lucas Wells
  • Greg Cohn
  • W. Matt Jolly
  • Francois de Coligny
  • Eric Rigolot
  • Jean-Luc Dupuy
  • William Mell
  • Rodman R. Linn
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Mensuration and modelling for forestry in a changing environment


Key message

We describe a modeling system that enables detailed, 3D fire simulations in forest fuels. Using data from three sites, we analyze thinning fuel treatments on fire behavior and fire effects and compare outputs with a more commonly used model.


Thinning is considered useful in altering fire behavior, reducing fire severity, and restoring resilient ecosystems. Yet, few tools currently exist that enable detailed analysis of such efforts.


The study aims to describe and demonstrate a new modeling system. A second goal is to put its capabilities in context of previous work through comparisons with established models.


The modeling system, built in Python and Java, uses data from a widely used forest model to develop spatially explicit fuel inputs to two 3D physics-based fire models. Using forest data from three sites in Montana, USA, we explore effects of thinning on fire behavior and fire effects and compare model outputs.


The study demonstrates new capabilities in assessing fire behavior and fire effects changes from thinning. While both models showed some increases in fire behavior relating to higher winds within the stand following thinning, results were quite different in terms of tree mortality. These different outcomes illustrate the need for continuing refinement of decision support tools for forest management.


This system enables researchers and managers to use measured forest fuel data in dynamic, 3D fire simulations, improving capabilities for quantitative assessment of fuel treatments, and facilitating further refinement in physics-based fire modeling.


Fuel treatments Fire behavior Modeling Physics-based WFDS FIRETEC FuelManager 


Authors Contributions

Authors PIMONT, WELLS, COHN, De COLIGNY, JOLLY, and PARSONS developed the modeling system. Authors PARSONS and PIMONT wrote most of the paper with contributions from all other authors. Authors MELL, LINN, de COLIGNY, DUPUY, and RIGOLOT provided key information used in the development of the project. Authors WELLS and COHN carried out simulations; WELLS, COHN, and PARSONS analyzed data. PARSONS, WELLS, COHN, and PIMONT produced figures.

Funding information

This work was made possible by funding from the Joint Fire Science Program of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of the Interior (USDI), Project No. 12-1-03-30 (STANDFIRE), as well as from USDA Forest Service Research (both Rocky Mountain Research Station and Washington office) National Fire Plan Dollars, through Interagency Agreements 13-IA-11221633-103 with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Supplementary material

13595_2017_686_MOESM1_ESM.docx (508 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 508 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell A. Parsons
    • 1
  • Francois Pimont
    • 2
  • Lucas Wells
    • 3
  • Greg Cohn
    • 4
  • W. Matt Jolly
    • 1
  • Francois de Coligny
    • 5
  • Eric Rigolot
    • 2
  • Jean-Luc Dupuy
    • 2
  • William Mell
    • 6
  • Rodman R. Linn
    • 7
  1. 1.US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research StationFire Sciences LaboratoryMissoulaUSA
  2. 2.INRA, UR 629 Ecologie des Forêts Méditerranéennes, Domaine Saint Paul, Site AgroparcAvignon Cedex 9France
  3. 3.Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management, College of ForestryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forest Ecosystem and Society, College of ForestryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  5. 5.INRA, UMR AMAP botAnique et bioinforMatique de l’Architecture des PlantesMontpelier Cedex 5France
  6. 6.U.S. Forest Service Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences LabSeattleUSA
  7. 7.Environmental Sciences DivisionLos Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA

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