The Energy Release Component (ERC) is an NFDRS (National Fire Danger Rating System) index related to how hot a fire could burn. It is directly related to the 24-hour, potential worst case, total available energy (BTUs) per unit area (in square feet) within the flaming front at the head of a fire.
The ERC can serve as a good characterization of fire season as it tracks seasonal fire danger trends well. The ERC is a function of the fuel model and live and dead fuel moistures. Fuel loading, woody fuel moistures, and larger fuel moistures all have an influence on the ERC, while the lighter fuels have less influence and wind speed has none. ERC has low variability, and is the best fire danger component for indicating the effects of intermediate to long-term drying on fire behavior (if it is a significant factor) although it is not intended for use as a drought index.