Is a wellsite opening a safety zone for a wildland firefighter or a survival zone or neither? - abstract
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): Martin E. Alexander; Gregory J. Baxter; Mark Y. Ackerman
Editor(s): Ronald E. Masters; Krista E. M. Galley; Don G. Despain
Publication Year: 2009

Cataloging Information

  • Canada
  • crown fire
  • fire behavior simulation modeling
  • firefighter safety
  • flame front residence time
  • flame height
  • heat transfer
  • PPE - Personal Protective Equipment
  • thermal radiation
  • International
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Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 23, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 10971


The Wildland Fire Operations Research Group (WFORG) of FPInnovations-Feric Division in collaboration with the University of Alberta initiated a project in late 2007 at the request of its stakeholders to examine and define the limits of wildland firefighter safety and survival zones. This partnership combines research and practical expertise in wildland fire suppression, fire behavior, heat transfer, and fire-resistant clothing evaluation. What constitutes a safety zone has been shown to vary widely among individuals, irrespective of experience. Based on analytical work involving theoretical considerations of radiative heating, it has been suggested that the diameter or separation distance of a safety zone should be as a minimum at least four times the maximum expected flame height. In such cases, it is assumed that a wildland firefighter clothed in personal protective clothing is standing upright and receives no burn injuries. Given the propensity for high-intensity crown fire behavior in the boreal forest and the general scarcity of suitable natural openings in the continuous overstory tree canopy, it has been suggested that wellsite openings could possibly serve as safety zones or alternatively as survival zones (G. Dakin, personal communication). In northern Alberta, these man made clearings are quite common in some regions. They generally vary from 100x100 m to 120x120 m in area. The ground cover at active wellsites is typically maintained in a nonflammable state, which make them a potentially ideal safety or survival zone.

Online Link(s):
Alexander, M. E.; Baxter, G. J.; Ackerman, M. Y. 2009. Is a wellsite opening a safety zone for a wildland firefighter or a survival zone or neither? - abstract. Page 110 in Masters, R. E.; Galley, K. E. M.; Despain, D. G., eds. The '88 Fires: Yellowstone and Beyond, Conference Proceedings. Tall Timbers Miscellaneous Publication No. 16, Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL.