Firefighter safety zones: a theoretical model based on radiative heating
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Bret W. Butler; Jack D. Cohen
Publication Year: 1998

Cataloging Information

  • catastrophic fires
  • Colorado
  • energy
  • entrapment
  • fire case histories
  • fire management
  • fire suppression
  • flame length
  • Gambel oak
  • hardwood forest
  • heat effects
  • lodgepole pine
  • mortality
  • net radiant energy transfer
  • pine forests
  • Pinus contorta
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • ponderosa pine
  • Quercus gambelii
  • radiation
  • safety zone
  • wildfires
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Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 222
Tall Timbers Record Number: 11753
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-I
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Quantitative information regarding safety zone size for wildland firefighters is limited. We present a 3-surface theoretical model that describes the net radiant energy transfer to a firefighter standing a specified distance from a fire of specified height. Model predictions compare favorably with qualitative data from entrapments on four wildfires and two previously published models. Calculations indicate that for most fires, safety zones must be greater than 20 m wide to ensure firefighter survival. A general rule-of-thumb derived from this work is that a safety zone radius must be equal to or greater than 4 times the maximum flame height.

Online Link(s):
Butler, Bret W.; Cohen, Jack D. 1998. Firefighter safety zones: a theoretical model based on radiative heating. International Journal of Wildland Fire 8(2):73-77.

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