A model was developed to predict the ignition of forest crown fuels above a surface fire based on heat transfer theory. The crown fuel ignition model (hereafter referred to as CFIM) is based on first principles, integrating: (i) the characteristics of the energy source as defined by surface fire flame front properties; (ii) buoyant plume dynamics; (iii) heat sink as described by the crown fuel particle characteristics; and (iv) energy transfer (gain and losses) to the crown fuels. Fuel particle temperature increase is determined through an energy balance relating heat absorption to fuel particle temperature. The final model output is the temperature of the crown fuel particles, which upon reaching ignition temperature are assumed to ignite. CFIM predicts the ignition of crown fuels but does not determine the onset of crown fire spread per se. The coupling of the CFIM with models determining the rate of propagation of crown fires allows for the prediction of the potential for sustained crowning. CFIM has the potential to be implemented in fire management decision support systems.
[This publication is referenced in the "Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers" (Werth et al 2011).]