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Individual Highlight

Synthesis of firebrand knowledge and research

Photo of Fire brands can rapidly advance a fire perimeter and increase the challenge to fire suppression forces.Fire brands can rapidly advance a fire perimeter and increase the challenge to fire suppression forces.Snapshot : Firebrands are an important fire spread mechanism in wildland and urban fires. While known since at least the Great London Fire of 1666, the firebrand phenomenon has been studied occasionally over the years. Recent interest in firebrand production, transport, and ignition success suggested the need for a review of literature and recommendations for future research.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Weise, David R. 
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 358


Spotting ignition by lofted firebrands is a significant mechanism of fire spread, as observed in many large scale fires. The phenomenon of spotting fires comprises three sequential mechanisms: generation, transport and ignition of a receptive fuel. In order to understand these mechanisms, many experiments have been performed, such as measuring drag on firebrands, analyzing the flow fields of flame and plume structures, collecting firebrands from burning materials, houses and wildfires, and observing firebrand burning characteristics in wind tunnels at terminal velocity and ignition characteristics of fuel beds. The knowledge obtained from the experiments has been used to develop firebrand models. Since Tarifa developed a firebrand model based on the terminal velocity approximation, many firebrand transport models have been developed to predict maximum spot fire distance. Combustion models of a firebrand have been developed empirically and the maximum spot fire distance has been derived. Recommendations for future research and development include the mechanisms of firebrand formation and generation rates, improved combustion and flow field models for firebrand transport, and energy production and transfer associated with firebrand ignition of fuel beds.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • University of California, BerkeleyLos Alamos National Laboratory

Program Areas