The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI)

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is basically a mathematical system for relating current and recent weather conditions to potential or expected fire behavior. This system was originally developed for the southeastern United States and is based primarily on recent rainfall patterns.

The KBDI is the most widely used drought index system by fire managers in the south. It is also one of the only drought index systems specifically developed to equate the effects of drought with potential fire activities.

The result of this system is a drought index number ranging from 0 to 800 that accurately describes the amount of moisture that is missing. A rating of zero defines the point where there is no moisture deficiency and 800 is the maximum drought possible.

These numbers correlate with potential fire behavior as follows:

0 - 200 Soil and fuel moisture are high. Most fuels will not readily ignite or burn. However, with sufficient sunlight and wind, cured grasses and some light surface fuels will burn in spots and patches.

200 - 400 Fires more readily burn and will carry across an area with no "gaps". Heavier fuels will still not readily ignite and burn. Also, expect smoldering and the resulting smoke to carry into and possibly through the night.

400 - 600 Fire intensity begins to significantly increase. Fires will readily burn in all directions exposing mineral soils in some locations. Larger fuels may burn or smolder for several days creating possible smoke and control problems.

600 - 800 Fires will burn to mineral soil. Stumps will burn to the end of underground roots and spotting will be a major problem. Fires will burn thorough the night and heavier fuels will actively burn and contribute to fire intensity.


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