RCI ReportsDouglas County Fire Plan

Appendix A - Glossary of Terms Used in Wildfire Management and Scientific Plant Names

Glossary of Terms Used in Wildfire Management

Any federal, state, or county government organization with jurisdictional responsibilities.
Air Attack
The deployment of fixed-wing or rotary aircraft on a wildland fire to drop retardant or suppressant, shuttle and deploy crews and supplies, or perform aerial reconnaissance of the overall fire situation. Can also refer to the person functioning as air attack officer and directing aerial operations.
All-Risk County Plan
Similar to a pre-attack (pre-fire) plan but encompasses action plans for responding to all types of natural and human caused emergencies such as earthquakes, floods, structure fires, hazardous materials situations, terrorism, train and vehicle accidents.
Annual Grass Treatment
The purpose of this treatment is to reduce the volume of flashy fuels associated with annual grass growth (e.g. cheatgrass and red brome). Fuel reduction can be accomplished by chemical treatment or mechanical removal of plant biomass. Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied near residential areas at the proper rates and following all label instructions to inhibit seed germination. After plants have started growth, mowing annual grasses before seed maturity reduces the amount of fine fuels during the summer fire season, limits seed production, and reduces the potential for annual grass in the following year. Repeated mowing over several years should reduce the density of the annual grass in the long term.
Direction toward which a slope faces.
Biomass Utilization and Disposal
Biomass utilization is an alternative to open pile burning or landfill disposal. It results in the use of the natural resource for beneficial purposes such as firewood, wood chips, compost, and other products. If residents cannot find an alternative to burning, then proper burning procedures should be followed.
Brush Fire
A fire burning in vegetation that is predominantly shrubs, brush, and scrub growth.
Buffer Zones
An area of reduced vegetation that separates wildland areas from vulnerable residential or business developments. This barrier is similar to a greenbelt in that it is often used for another purpose such as agriculture or recreation, or parks or golf courses.
Classic Interface
Structures abut native vegetation with a clear line of separation between structures and the wildland vegetation along roads and fences. The fuels do not extend into the developed areas.
Contain a Fire
A fuel break around the fire has been completed. This break may include natural barriers such as a river or road, and/or fireline built by hand, and/or fireline constructed mechanically.
Control a Fire
The complete extinguishment of a fire, including spot fires. Fireline has been strengthened so that flare-ups from within the perimeter of the fire will not break through the line.
Crown Fire
The movement of fire through the crowns or tops of trees or shrubs more or less independently of the surface fire. A fire is said to be crowning when the flames get up into the tops of trees and spreads.
Defensible Space
Defensible space is defined as a minimum of a 30-foot area around houses and other structures where vegetation has been significantly modified or removed. The purpose of creating defensible space is to reduce the risk of losing homes and other property improvements to a wildfire (Smith and Adams, 1991).

Defensible space is especially important in communities with structures directly adjacent to wildland vegetation, as in the intermix or rural interface conditions, where wildfires can spread quickly through the wildland fuels, threatening homes and lives.
Dispatch Center
A facility from which resources are directly assigned to an incident.
Dry Lightning Storm
Thunderstorm in which negligible precipitation reaches the ground. Also called a dry storm.
The layer of decomposing organic materials lying below the litter layer of freshly fallen twigs, needles, and leaves and immediately above the mineral soil.
Extreme Fire Behavior
“Extreme” implies a level of fire behavior characteristics that ordinarily precludes methods of direct control action. One or more of the following are usually involved: high rate of spread, prolific crowning and/or spotting, presence of fire whirls, a strong convection column. Predictability is difficult because such fires often exercise influence on their environment and behave erratically, sometimes dangerously.
Fine Fuels
Fast-drying fuels, generally with a comparatively high surface area-to-volume ratio, which are less than 1/4-inch in diameter and have a timelag of one hour or less. These fuels ignite readily and are rapidly consumed by fire when dry.
Fire Behavior
The manner in which a fire reacts to the influences of fuels, weather, and topography.
Pieces of burning material carried on the wind ahead of an advancing wildfire that, in extreme cases, can ignite spot fires up to a mile removed from the flame front.
A strip of land cleared of brush and trees down to the mineral soil.
Fire Front
The part of a wildland fire in which continuous flaming combustion is taking place. Unless otherwise specified the fire front is assumed to be the leading edge of the fire perimeter. In ground fires, the fire front may be mainly smoldering combustion.
Fire Hazard
As used in this report, vegetative factors that affect the intensity and the rate a fire spreads as well as urban factors that can facilitate or inhibit public safety and the containment of a fire in an interface area.
Fire Perimeter
The entire outer edge or boundary of a fire, which may contain within it substantial areas of unburned fuels.
Fire Regime
A term used by fire ecologists to describe the recurrence and intensity of fire relative to a specific plant community.
Fire Risk
Potential ignition sources and factors that facilitate ignition of wildfires.
Flash Fuels
Fuels such as grass, leaves, pine needles, ferns, tree moss, and some types of slash, flash fuels or flashy fuels ignite readily and are consumed rapidly when dry. Also called fine fuels.
Fuel Bed
In a research setting, an array of fuels usually constructed with specific loading, depth, and particle size to meet experimental requirements; also commonly used to describe the fuels composition in natural settings.
Fuelbreaks are constructed in strategic locations where a cover of dense, heavy, or flammable vegetation has been permanently changed to one of lower fuel volume or reduced flammability. Fuelbreak construction may include removing, controlling and possible replacing highly flammable vegetation with more fire resistant species. Ridge top fuelbreaks should have continuous length and width, which requires long-range planning.

A fuelbreak network system could be used to protect critical watersheds while more remote areas might have narrower fuelbreaks that might serve as anchor points for prescribed fires. A fuelbreak strategy can be effective even if fuelbreaks are not connected.
Fuel Loading
The amount of fuels present expressed quantitatively in terms of weight per unit area.
Fuel Reduction Treatment
This treatment involves strategically locating blocks of land near communities where flammable vegetation has been permanently changed to one of lower fuel volume or reduced flammability.
Fuel Type
An identifiable association of fuel elements of a distinctive plant species, form, size, arrangement, or other characteristics that will cause a predictable rate of fire spread or difficulty of control under specified weather conditions.
Greenstrips are usually non-irrigated linear bands of open space on private or public land (usually a minimum of 300 feet wide) that serve as a buffer zone between wildland and adjacent urban development to promote safer environments. These areas are usually seeded to establish vegetation that is relatively fire resistant or slow burning and with shortened flame lengths. Seedings also decrease soil erosion and prevent invasion of noxious weeds and other aggressive plants such as cheatgrass and Russian knapweed.
Ground Fuels
All combustible materials below the surface litter, including duff, tree or shrub roots, punky wood, peat, sawdust, and other materials that can support a glowing combustion without flame.
High Hazard Day
Also known as a “red flag day”, a combination of conditions such as low humidity (<15 percent), high winds (>25 mph), and low fuel moisture create a high probability of ignition and subsequent increased fire intensity. Various agencies have different trigger points to establish a “high hazard day”.
Initial Attack
The actions taken by the first resources upon arrival at a wildfire to protect lives and property and prevent further expansion of the fire.
Interface Condition
The density and distribution of structures with respect to the surrounding wildland environment. The four Interface Conditions are Rural, Intermixed, Occluded, and Classic.
Intermix Interface
 Structures are scattered throughout the wildland, with no clear boundary between the wildland vegetation and the community.
Ladder Fuels
Fuels which provide vertical continuity between strata, thereby allowing fire to carry from surface fuels into the crowns of trees or shrubs with relative ease. They help start and continue crowning on a fire.
Mutual Aid Agreement
Written agreement between agencies and/or jurisdictions in which they agree to assist one another upon request by furnishing personnel and equipment.
Occluded Interface
This condition is usually within towns and cities where there are small islands of wildland fuels such as parks or open space. There is a clear boundary between the community and the wildland vegetation.
Pre-Attack Plan
Also known as a pre-fire plan. A plan written in anticipation of a fire in a given community or specific area. This plan is made readily available to all local agencies and typically lists expected need and availability of initial and extended attack resources, includes radio frequencies, name and number of contact person for each agency, and identifies the staging base, incident command post, evacuation center, location of water resources, and additional details unique to the locality being described.
Red Card Certification
A fire qualifications management system used by many state and all federal wildland fire management agencies to ensure that individuals are qualified to fight wildland fires.
Rural Interface
Clusters of structures such as ranches or summer homes are widely spaced, sometimes more than a mile apart. The rural homes are surrounded by the wildland vegetation, with no clear line of separation between the fuels and homes.
Shaded Fuelbreaks
A shaded fuelbreak is created by altering surface fuels, and increasing the height of the base of the live crown, and opening the canopy by removing a portion of the woody plants in the treatment area. This type of fuelbreak spans a wide range of understory and overstory prescriptions. Construction methods include mechanical thinning, manual biomass removal, and the use of prescribed fires.
Structure Fire
Fire burning any part or all of any building or structure.
Volunteer Fire Department (VFD)
A fire department of which some or all members are unpaid.
Water Tender
A ground vehicle capable of transporting water in the field, generally used to supply engines.
Wildland Fire
Any non-structure fire, other than prescribed fire, that occurs in a wildland area.
Wildland-Urban Interface
The line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.


  • FIREWISE. Glossary of Terms.
  • National Fire Plan. Glossary of Terms.
  • Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.  2001.  Fuel load reduction treatments along the wildland-urban interface: Community level protection support document for National Fire Plan projects in Utah and Nevada.

Scientific Plant Names

Common Name Scientific Name
Aspen Populus tremuloides
Cottonwood Populus fremontii
Jeffrey pine Pinus jeffreyi
Singleleaf pinyon pine Pinus monophylla
Utah juniper Juniperus osteosperma
White fir Abies concolor
Bitterbrush Purshia tridentata
Currant Ribes sp.
Desert peach Prunus andersonii
Elderberry Sambucus mexicana
Ephedra Ephedra nevadensis
Fourwing saltbush Atriplex canescens
Low sagebrush Artemisia arbuscula
Mormon tea Ephedra viridis
Mountain mahogany Cercocarpus sp.
Mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana
Rabbitbrush Chrysothamnus sp.
Smooth horsebrush Tetradymia glabrata
Spiny hopsage Grayia spinosa
Spiny horsebrush Tetradymia spinosa
Willow Salix sp.
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis
Grasses / Forbs
Annual mustard Brassicaceae
Basin wildrye Leymus cinereus
Bottlebrush squirreltail Elymus elymoides
Cheatgrass Bromus tectorum
Crested wheatgrass Agropyron cristatum
Desert needlegrass Achnatherum speciosum
Filaree (stork’s bill) Erodium cicutarium
Indian ricegrass Achnatherum hymenoides
Needle and thread grass Hesperostipa comata
Russian thistle Salsola tragus
Sandberg bluegrass Poa secunda
Sedge Carex sp.
Sherman big bluegrass Poa secunda
Thurber’s needlegrass Achnatherum thurberianum