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Development of the Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator

The Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) is a forest growth model that is widely used by forest managers and the research community to provide predictions of how the primary vegetation in forests will change over time (Crookston and Dixon 2005).

Model users cover the spectrum from silviculturists, researchers, wildlife biologists, and ecologists to plantation owners, timber foresters, and most recently carbon traders, and fire and fuels specialists.

FFE-FVS links the dynamics of forest vegetation (primarily trees) with models of snag, fuels, and fire behavior. In tracking fuel dynamics, processes such as litterfall, snag fall down, the accumulation of activity fuels, and decomposition are modeled. Fuel loading, forest type, and other stand characteristics, are used to classify stands into one of the standard fuel models used to model fire behavior. Fire behavior is then represented using pre-existing methods–the algorithms in systems such as Behave and Nexus are used internally to estimate surface and crown fire behavior. Fire effects equations were also taken mostly from published work. FFE has been developed for almost all of the FVS geographic variants.

FFE-FVS is widely used by natural resource specialists throughout the US. The majority of use is by the US Forest Service, but other federal agencies, state agencies and others have used the model as well. It is also used heavily by researchers to directly fill modeling needs.


The goal of FFE-FVS is to provide managers a tool that simulates fuel dynamics and potential fire behavior over time (years and multiple decades), in the context of stand development and management. Linking the fire and fuels to stand dynamics in a modeling system used by forest managers also links fire and fuel managers to silviculturists and forest planners because a common modeling framework is used by all.

Modified: Jun 03, 2014

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The model, a graphical user interface, and an output visualization tool are available for anyone to use. Free week-long FVS training sessions (that cover FFE) are offered throughout the country. FFE-FVS support is also available through the FVS hotline, a phone number that users can call whenever they have questions about the software. In addition, on-site model assistance is available. A web site is maintained that includes links to the software, documentation, and to an online video outlining the purpose and use of the model. Details of the model content and use are available in Reinhardt and Crookston (2003), including an addendum detailing changes.

FFE-FVS and supporting documentation can be downloaded from:

Reinhardt, E., Crookston, N.L. (tech. editors), 2003. The Fire and Fuels Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-116. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 209 p.