On Monday, May 2nd the New England chapter of the (SPFE) Society of Fire Protection Engineers held its final chapter meeting in Norwood, Massachusetts. The evening meeting featured an interesting presentation by an internationally recognized leader in fire science, Dr. Albert Simeoni a senior manager with Exponent Inc. He has also worked and volunteered with the Fire Department of North Corsica, France for 10 years, starting his career as a volunteer firefighter and ending his career there as a chief. Dr. Simeoni presented an integrated research project that examined how wildland fires spread using new modeling methods that he developed.
His studies were examining wildland fire in the field because of the trend of growing wildfires. He was trying to understand better about how to develop methodologies for studying wildland fires especially because of the growing concern about massive wildfires. His fire modeling studies were completed this spring on plots of forested land in the pine barrens of New Jersey. His 3-year goal is to look at the effectiveness of fuel treatments, but the long-term goal is to understand wildland fire behavior. He used instruments such as a sonic anemometer to measure wind speed, flux calorimeters to measure variabilities in temperatures, airborne sensors on WASP planes to examine heat transfer, and LIDAR to look at canopy densities and height as well as samples of the forest vegetation (fuel).
This research is conducted in collaboration with the US Forest Service, the University of Edinburgh, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Tomsk State University. It is funded by two JFSP projects, one on fuel treatment effectiveness and the other one on firebrand production with the local support of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
The most interesting research component that was presented was some information about how embers are generated after the wildfire passed and the way that embers moved because of fluctuating winds during a wildfire event. It reminded me of the importance that homeowners look at the home as well as their landscape when they are embracing Firewise principles. He shared how many homes burn hours after the fire front passes due in large part to smoldering embers that have more oxygen to burn more intensely after the fire front passes. The downloadable Firewise toolkit shares many simple changes that you can make to your home to keep it safer in the event of a wildfire.