Tree characteristics were recorded from 2829 standing trees in 24 0.25-ha terra firme forest plots in central Amazonia, 3 y after a surface fire had swept through the study area. Sixteen of the plots were within forest that burnt for the first time at the end of the 1997-98 El Niño (ENSO) event, and the remaining eight plots were within unburnt primary forest. In order to investigate the morphological correlates of tree mortality, we measured tree diameter at breast height (dbh) and bark thickness, and recorded burn height, bark roughness and the presence of latex, resin and buttress roots. Leaf litter depth was also recorded at the base of all trees in the unburnt forest. Using logistic regression models, tree mortality was best explained by the burn height, although dbh and the presence of buttresses were also important. Buttressed trees were associated with deeper leaf litter accumulation at their bases and higher char heights than trees without buttresses. Moreover, trees surviving the fire had significantly thicker bark than living trees in unburnt forest plots, indicating that thin-barked trees are more prone to selective mortality induced by heat stress. Latex did not appear to have had any significant effects on mortality, though resins were less abundant amongst the live trees in the burnt forest than in the unburnt controls. Levels of fire-mediated tree mortality in this study are compared with those in other Amazonian forest regions in light of historical factors affecting tree resistance to fires.