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Twenty-first century California, USA, wildfires: Fuel-dominated vs. wind-dominated fires

July 18, 2019

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century California, USA, has experienced a substantial increase in the frequency of large wildfires, often with extreme impacts on people and property. Due to the size of the state, it is not surprising that the factors driving these changes differ across this region. Although there are always multiple factors driving wildfire behavior, we believe a helpful model for understanding fires in the state is to frame the discussion in terms of bottom-up vs. top-down controls on fire behavior; that is, fires that are clearly dominated by anomalously high fuel loads from those dominated by extreme wind events. Of course, this distinction is somewhat artificial in that all fires are controlled by multiple factors involving fuels, winds, and topography. However, we believe that fires clearly recognizable as fuel-dominated vs. wind-dominated provide interesting case studies of factors behind these two extremes. These two types of fires differ greatly in their (1) geographical distribution in the state, (2) past fire history, (3) prominent sources of ignition, (4) seasonal timing, (5) resources most at risk, and (6) requirement for different management responses.

Publication Year 2019
Title Twenty-first century California, USA, wildfires: Fuel-dominated vs. wind-dominated fires
DOI 10.1186/s42408-019-0041-0
Authors Jon Keeley, Alexandra D. Syphard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Fire Ecology
Index ID 70205950
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center