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Fire Break

6 Posts authored by: dgorham Employee

Next month research from all around the world will meet in Lund, Sweden to discuss large outdoor fires and the build environment, including the wildland-urban interface.

Wildfires burn near Grand Coulee Dam, Washington

This workshop, lead by Sam Manzello from NIST, will include presentations that highlighting large outdoor fires throughout the world and explore synergies between these fires. The goal workshop is to develop the foundation for an international research needs roadmap to reduce the risk of large outdoor fires to the built environment. A report will be published based on the presentations and discussion during the workshop, similar to the NIST Special Publication on a structure ignition in wildland-urban interface (WUI) fires.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) facility in Richburg, SC to witness several fire experiments. This work is part of a Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) project investigating fire ember production from wildland and structural (construction material) fuels in the wildland and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). You can learn more about it at the project page: Fire Ember Production from Wildland and Structural Fuels.


It was a great opportunity to get back in the lab and participate with researchers as they work on an exciting project with excellent collaborators. Plus, it was a lot of fun (look at those smiles).


Steve Quarles (IBHS) and crew during final day of testing on fire ember production from wildland and structural fuels.

Corner-assembly burning during fire ember production experiments at IBHS.

Photos courtesy of IBHS Twitter: @disastersafety

Homeowners in rural communities - what do you know about your water supply?


Water is an important part of life, according the United States Geological Survey about 71% of the earth's surface is covered in it [1] and an adult male's body is made up of about 60% of it [2]. We use in so many parts of our lives: cleaning and cleaning, cooling, transportation, farming, manufacturing, and recreation to name a few.


Water is also one of the most common agent used for fire protection. It has chemical and physical properties that make it an effective suppressant and as mentioned previously there is a lot of it. We have also developed effective methods for transporting water from one location to another, usually through pipes, and then storing it. In most urban and suburban areas there is a municipal water supply system that can provide the flows and pressures required for domestic, industrial, and fire protection.


In rural areas buildings are often spread out over a large area and it becomes less efficient to install and maintain a municipal water supply system. Underground wells can provide water to domestic uses but may not be sufficient for fire protection.


Fire departments operating in rural areas will develop pre-plans for water supply operations for fires. This may include identifying sources of water, such as rivers or other bodies of water that can be drafted from, as well as the method for delivering it to the scene of the fire, either through long hose lays or possibly water tender relays.


If you live in a rural area without municipal water it is important you be aware of the fire departments needs to establish water supply in the case of a fire. Boulder County Colorado has developed a document that provides information on emergency water supply for firefighting.


I would like to start a discussion about rural water supply and what the needs and expectations are for the different parties involved including community planners and emergency responders. Future blog posts will address current design requirements for rural firefighting water supply, both for structural and wildland & wildland-urban interface fires.


Participate in the discussion by adding a comment about what your role is and what you know about rural water supply. Scroll to the top of the page to login or signup if you do not already have an account - you do not need to be an NFPA member to participate in the Xchange.



[1] How much water is there on Earth, from the USGS Water Science School

[2] Water properties: The water in you (Water Science School)

Wildfire and wildland fire are often interchangeable words heard on the news during the fire season but it can be important to differentiate in the fire research community because of their meaning. The National Wildland Coordination Group (NWCG) provides a glossary of terms for the fire community (link).


Wildland Fire: any non-structural fire that occurs in vegetation or natural fuels. Wildland fire includes prescribed fire and wildfire.


Wildland fire describes the overarching concept of fire in natural fuels. These fuels do not need be in the wildland, but can include other areas such as plains, prairies, fields and green-spaces.


All fuels will burn given the right conditions, and many natural habitats require fuels to burn for a healthy ecosystem. This understanding has led to the concept of natural fire, where vegetation fuels become dependent on and thrive because of fire events.


Wildfire: an unplanned, unwanted wildland fire including unauthorized human-caused fires, escaped prescribed fire projects, and all other wildland fires where the objective is to pull the fire out.


Wildfire describes a situation where the fuels are burning creating an undesirable condition. They may start as natural fires but grow to a point where they become unmanageable and threaten things we do not want to burn, referred to in the research community as highly valued resources and assets.


Prescribed Fire: any fire intentionally ignited by management actions in accordance with applicable laws, policies, and regulations to meet specific objectives.


Land managers use prescribed fire to support natural habitats that depend on fire. By introducing fire in a controlled manner the ecosystem can reap the benefits and the fuel loading reduced to prevent high-intensity fires.


Using the correct terminology helps to understand that not all fire is bad and that, in some cases, the lack of fire can be harmful. This is important for fire research as we explore the causes and effects of fire in natural fuels and communicate our findings to the public.

The recent emergency evacuation of approximately 100,000 citizens of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada has emphasized the need to build more resilient communities when threatened by a large wildfire. To effectively plan for scenarios requiring large-scale urban evacuation, like during the 2016 Fort McMurray Fire, several factors need to be considered including fire and smoke movement, vehicle transport, and crowd evacuation.


A new project funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will look at currently-available models for these different conditions and how they work together including the sharing and transfer of information. This project, e-Murrary, seeks to build a novel computational simulation toolkit that will aid in the planning, preparation, and training of a community near wildland. It will combine fire spread, traffic flows, and pedestrian movement all at the urban scale that will pave the way to better planning of safe and quick urban evacuations caused by wildfire disasters.


You can learn more about this project on the Research Foundation website.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation currently has two on-going research projects related to wildland fire and the wildland-urban interface (WUI).


Fire brands and embers generated by burning fuels can travel ahead of the flame front and cause ignition of spot fires in vegetation fuels and buildings. Not all embers are created equal; the amount, shape, mass and dimensions of embers produced from burning fuels can vary and may have different potential to ignite other fuels.  A Joint Fire Science Program funded project is looking at the production of these embers from wildland and structural fuels which can be used to understand the exposure to unburned fuels and ultimately the risk of ignition. More information on this project is available on the Foundation's website.


Water is an important component of most fire protection systems, including fire department intervention. Getting the water from where it is stored to where is needs to be is an important part of the fire department operations and in the fire protection design of suburban and rural communities. Current codes and standard provide requirements for determining the minimum amount of water and supply to these communities. A new project supported by the NFPA Research Fund will look at the minimum water supply table in NFPA 1142 and provide recommendations as appropriate. You can find information about this and other on-going work on the current projects page.

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