Fuel Break Effectiveness: Understanding Fire Response to Spatial Variations in Vegetation and Wind
Land management agencies recognize that vegetation and environmental heterogeneity collectively drive landscape scale fire behavior and fire effects. The interactions between energy transport in wildland fires and the spatial distribution of fuels and wind are complex. Increasingly, fire managers are using fuel treatments and fuel breaks to influence expected fire behavior, but quantitative data specific to fundamental energy transfer is lacking to support large scale decision making.
Fire spread can be characterized as a continuous sequence of ignitions. Ignition is a local phenomenon, governed by complex interactions between fuel and environment. Seemingly insignificant changes in vegetation orientation or spacing can significantly affect the ignition process and result in fire either bridging a gap in fuels or extinguishing at the gap boundary.
This study seeks to improve our understanding of ignition by exploring the physics underlying fire’s response to gaps in vegetation under the influence of varying wind and fuel characteristics.
An improved understanding will increase the ability of the fire science community to effectively model fire behavior and the capability of operational fire managers to use fire strategically and opportunistically as a land management tool.