Forest Service scientists disentangle some of the complexity associated with wildland fires
Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station and their collaborators are exploring the complex interactions between fire behavior, fuel loading and consumption, and turbulence and smoke dispersion during wildland fires of varying intensities in the New Jersey Pinelands. Measurements in wildland fires ranging from low-intensity backing fires to high-intensity crowning fires show that turbulence and heat flux are strongly linked to fire intensity, but the consumption of fuels on the forest floor and understory are only weakly related to the increased turbulence, dispersion of smoke, and ember production associated with higher intensity fires. Instead, consumption of fuels on the forest floor is strongly related to initial fuel amounts. This means that low-intensity fires can be effective at consuming surface fuels without causing some of the undesirable effects of high-intensity fires. Results from this research have led to the development and evaluation of an advanced smoke emission model that incorporates the effects of the forest canopy on wind and dispersion of smoke during low-intensity prescribed fires, and a better understanding of turbulence and heating in the fire environment. These research efforts also are resulting in field data sets to test a new, physics-based fire behavior model: the Wildland Urban Interface Fire Dynamics Simulator..
Forest Service Partners