Title: An effective wind speed for models of fire spread
Document Type: Journal
Author(s): Ralph M. Nelson Jr.
Publication Year: 2002

Cataloging Information

backfire; Betula papyrifera; fire management; fire spread; flame length; fuel loading; headfires; Populus tremuloides; rate of spread; sloping terrain; spread direction; statistical analysis; threshold wind speed; topography; wildfires; wind; wind - slope interaction
Record Maintained By:
TTRS Staff;
Record Last Modified: February 17, 2017
FRAMES Record Number: 4794

In previous descriptions of wind-slope interaction and the spread rate of wildland fires it is assumed that the separate effects of wind and slope are independent and additive and that corrections for these effects may be applied to spread rates computed from existing rate of spread models. A different approach is explored in the present paper in which the upslope component of the fire's buoyant velocity is used with the speed and direction of the ambient wind to produce effective values of wind speed and direction that determine the rate of spread vector. Thus the effective wind speed can replace the ambient wind speed in any suitable fire spread model and provide a description of the combined effects on the fire behavior. The difference between current and threshold values of the effective wind speed also can be used to determine whether fire will spread in a given fuel type. The model is tested with data from experiments reported by Weise (1993) in which fire spread was in response to variation in both wind speed and slope angle. The Weise spread rate data were satisfactorily correlated using dimensional methods and the observed spread rate was reasonably well predicted with an existing rate of spread model. Directional aspects of the model were not tested because the Weise (1993) study did not include winds with a cross-slope component.

Online Link(s):
Nelson Jr., Ralph M. 2002. An effective wind speed for models of fire spread. International Journal of Wildland Fire 11(2):153-161.