U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Final Report January 2013. Project Number: JFSP-09-1-07-4


US government work.


Accurate, consistent, and timely fire severity maps are needed in all phases of fire management including planning, managing, and rehabilitating wildfires. The problem is that fire severity maps are commonly developed from satellite imagery that is difficult to use for planning wildfire responses before a fire has actually happened and can’t be used for real-time wildfire management because of the timing of the imagery delivery. Moreover, imagery is difficult to use for controlled fires such as prescribed burning. This study, called FIRESEV (FIRE SEVerity Mapping Tools) created a comprehensive set of tools and protocols to deliver, create, and evaluate fire severity maps for all phases of fire management. The first tool is a Severe Fire Potential Map (SFPM) that quantifies the potential for fires to burn with high severity, should they occur, for any 30m x 30m piece of ground across the western United States. This map was developed using empirical models that related topographic, vegetation, and fire weather variables to burn severity as mapped using the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) digital products. This SFPM map is currently available on the Fire Research and Management Exchange System (FRAMES, http://www.frames.gov/firesev) web site and can be used to plan for future wildfires or for managing wildfires in real time, e.g. by including it as a layer in Wildland Fire Decision Support System or other GIS analysis. The next tool was the inclusion of a fire severity mapping algorithm in the Wildland Fire Assessment Tool (WFAT) developed by the National Interagency Fuels Technology Transfer (NIFTT) team. WFAT is used for fuel treatment planning to predict potential fire effects under prescribed fire weather conditions (http://www.frames.gov/partner-sites/niftt/tools/niftt-current-resources/). Now, fire severity can be mapped explicitly from fire effects simulation models (FOFEM, Consume) for real-time and planning wildfire applications. Next, the FIRESEV project showed how results from the WFAT simulated fire severity can be integrated with satellite imagery to improve fire severity mapping. And last, the FIRESEV project produced a suite of research studies, synthesis papers, and popular articles designed to improve the description, interpretation, and mapping of fire severity for wildland fire management: (1) a research study created a completely objective method of quantifying fire severity from fire effects to obtain nine unique classes of fire severity, (2) a research study comprehensively contrasted all current classifications of fire severity using Composite Burn Index (CBI) as measured on over 300 plots across the western United States to determine commonalities and differences, and (3) a synthesis paper was written discussing the problems involved in measuring, describing, and quantifying fire severity. This FIRESEV project yielded over 15 deliverables that we feel provides a comprehensive suite of products to create useful fire severity maps, along with current satellite imagery products, and also FIRESEV provides a thorough background on how to measure, interpret, and apply fire severity in fire management.