Thomas Welle

Need for fire predictions drives research

Blog Post created by Thomas Welle on Mar 16, 2015

Haymanfire-45 tom cooper getty images

 Wildland fire behavior is determined by the interaction between fuels, weather and topography. 

Fire mangers are constantly looking to new technologies to help them predict a fire’s future activity.  Within the Incident Command System, a position called the Fire Behavior Analyst, (FBAN), uses software to analyze variables such as predicted wind speeds, direction, relative humidity, temperature, fuel types and species, slope, and aspect to try and derive what the fire’s future intensity, direction and rates of spread might be, especially in the next 24 hours.  The FBAN builds the fire behavior analysis which the Planning Section uses to help develop the next burn period’s Incident Action Plan, (IAP).

Meteorologists and Fire Scientists are conducting research to develop models that will someday form the basis of new predictive technologies.  One example is “Data Driven Wildland Fire Spread Modeling” by Cong Zhang and Maria Theodori of the University of Maryland department of Fire Engineering.  According to the University, “the objective of this project is to develop a prototype data-driven wildland fire simulation capability capable of forecasting the fire spread dynamics”.  High-park-fire9 inciweb

An article in the High Country News, “The Art and Science of Forecasting Wildfires”, details research studying the interactions of fire, wind, topography and fire generated winds.  Janice Coen, a fire weather and behavior researcher with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, (NCAR), near Boulder, Colorado, studied flame patterns in wildfires from aircraft using an infrared imager since the 1990’s.  She developed a fire behavior model that combines the physics of heat and air with fine grained topographic and weather data to reproduce fire behavior in conditions closely mimicking actual behavior.  Check out her fire behavior model simulation of the 2012 High Park Fire that occurred near Ft. Collins, Colorado.

As NFPA promotes its campaign of “The Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire”, (#YLLDW), we are always seeking information and knowledge to keep our firefighters and residents safer from the risks of wildfires.

(photo credit: tom cooper: map credit: inciweb)

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