U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 90, January 2010


US government work.


To help reduce the chance for high-severity fires in the western United States, thinning of the forest understory, midstory and overstory has become a necessity. In some cases, the resulting surface fuels are piled by hand and burned. As this two-part treatment method becomes more widely-used, fire managers need the ability to calculate the biomass of hand-piled fuels so they can better estimate the potential emissions and smoke impacts from their disposal by burning. Since machine-constructed piles were sampled in a previous study, researchers were able to use this past research as a point of departure to develop methods to better characterize the biomass of hand-constructed piles. The research team measured and weighed hand piles to improve the accuracy of volume, weight and emissions estimates. The compiled data were incorporated into a simple online calculator which provides fuel and fire managers with the ability to estimate smoke production with a few basic observations and measurements.