Extreme wildfire behavior is often associated with complex terrain where interactions between the fire front and topography and complex flows help drive fire spread. These interactions have resulted in a high number of firefighter fatalities especially in steep canyon terrain where eruptive and explosive fire spread is often observed. While terrain effects on fire spread are not well understood, the role of plume dynamics on fire spread is even less known. This becomes even more complicated when fire-atmosphere coupling is further compounded by the effect of steep topography. One reason for our limited understanding of fire spread mechanisms in mountainous terrain is the difficulty in obtaining coordinated observations fire environment. This talk will provide an overview of the current state of knowledge on extreme fire behavior research in complex terrain using examples from recent wildfires in California, including the deadly Camp Fire, and a number of new field experiments aimed at better understanding fire spread on slopes and in canyon topography.
Extreme Wildfire Behavior Associated with Complex Terrain