Current research on severe fire interactions with the atmosphere focuses largely on examination of correlations between fire growth and various atmospheric properties, and on the development of indices based on these correlations. The author proposes that progress requires understanding the physics and atmospheric dynamics behind the correlations. A conceptual 3-stage model of fire development, based on atmospheric structure, is presented. Using parcel theory and basic atmospheric dynamics equations, the author proposes possible causal explanations for some of the known correlations. The atmospheric dynamics are discussed in terms of the 3-stage model, but can also be viewed more generally. The overall goal is to reframe fire-atmosphere interactions in a way that will allow better understanding and progress in fire science, prediction, and safety.
[This publication is referenced in the "Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers" (Werth et al 2011).]