Forest and Woodland Ecosystems Science Program
Contact Information
  • Forest and Woodland Ecosystems Science Program
  • Southwest Forest Science Complex
  • 2500 South Pine Knoll
  • Flagstaff, AZ 86001-6381
  • Alison Hill 928-556-2105
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Firetec LANL report cover

HIGRAD/FIRETEC is the cornerstone of a growing collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS), which also reaches out to eight domestic university campuses, and multiple research institutions in France.


HIGRAD/FIRETEC is a physics-based, 3-D computer code designed to simulate the constantly changing, interactive relationship between fire and its environment. It does so by representing the coupled interaction between fire, fuels, atmosphere, and topography on a landscape scale (hundreds or thousands of meters).

HIGRAD is a computational fluid-dynamics model that represents airflow and its adjustments to terrain, different types of fuel (vegetation), and the fire itself. FIRETEC combines physics models that represent combustion, heat transfer, aerodynamic drag and turbulence.


Unlike the empirically based models currently used in the field, FIRETEC simulates the dynamic processes that occur within a fire and the way those processes feed off and alter each other. FIRETEC takes the huge computational resources at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to run, so it is currently a research tool only.


FIRETEC provides a sophisticated analytical tool for fire, fuel, and land managers, including:

  • Predicting wildfire behavior in rugged terrain under different atmospheric conditions
  • Optimizing fuel-management strategies (thinning, controlled burns, etc.)
  • Investigating how fire interacts with various fuels
  • Determining the causes of dangerous changes in a wildfire's behavior
  • Providing realistic simulations for training inexperiened fire fighters, and
  • Complementing and enhancing existing empirical fire models to make them more reliable.


  • Has significant potential to help prevent loss of life, property, and natural resources
  • Provides critical background and predictive wildfire information needed by decision-makers, and
  • Can help prepare inexperienced firefighters for dangerous situations.


  • R&D "100 Award" for innovation and potential service to society as one of the most technologically significant new products
  • Technology transfer for outstanding technology development award by Federal Laboratory Consortium