Multi-scale analyses of wildland fire combustion processes

Principal Investigator(s)

Robert Kremens

Project Description

Prescribed fire is used as a management tool for a number of reasons- fuel reduction for mitigating the impact of wild fires, habitat improvement for game and other species, and as a successional management tool for forests like the coastal plains barrens, among others. Current predictive models used to simulate fire behavior during low-intensity prescribed fires (and low-intensity wildfires) are empirically-based, simplistic, and fail to adequately capture variability in fuel characteristics and interactions with important meteorological variables. We are undertaking, along with collaborators from the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Pacific Northwest Research Station, University of Edinburgh and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to use a suite of measurements at the fuel particle, fuel bed, field plot and stand scales (or levels) to quantify how variability in fuel characteristics and key meteorological factors interact to drive fire behavior during low intensity prescribed burns. We have designed these experiments to provide information for the further development and evaluation of mechanistic, physics-based models that explicitly account for combustion, turbulent transfer, and energy exchange by coupling and scaling individual component processes. These will improve our understanding of and ability to accurately predict fire behavior under a wide range of management scenarios.

We have undertaken plot level (10m X 10 m) experiments in the Pinelands Reservation of New Jersey this year and last, including more than 45 experiments at different fuel loading, fuel arrangement and atmospheric conditions. To that end, 16 flux measurement/photographic packages will be deployed on a 4 X 4 grid within the 10m X 10m plot. We have also conducted two experiments at ‘field’ scale (10-30 hectares). RIT’s role in these experiments is to provide measurement apparatus to measure radiative and convective energy flow as well as rate of spread and fire location using fire hard visible and infrared cameras.

Figures and Images

A computer drawn schematic of the plot level experiments

A schematic of the plot level experiments

The instrument layout deployed in a forest

“As-installed” instrument layout

The apparatus shown deployed in a forest with a low-intensity fire burning under it.

An example low-intensity fire is shown under the apparatus