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Fire Modeling - Understanding Wildland Fires

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Fire modeling occurs over many scales. Many disparate communities are involved, from foresters and ecologists to engineers, atmospheric scientists, and remote sensing specialists. There are challenges obtaining good observational data. Researchers are working to build better physical models to help understand how wildfires spread, to fill in missing data, and to improve observations from a variety of sources.

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Fire Modeling - Understanding Wildland Fires

  1. 1. Fire Modeling Michael J. Gollner Assistant Professor Department of Fire Protection Engineering University of Maryland, College Park UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: How new research can help fire-management efforts to protect lives and property
  2. 2. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Fire Problem 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 NumberofFires(K) 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Year AreaBurned(Kkm 2 ) National Interagency Fire Center Statistics
  3. 3. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Fire Problem 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 NumberofFires(K) 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Year AreaBurned(Kkm 2 ) Increasing Area Burned Similar Number of Fires National Interagency Fire Center Statistics 95% of area burned by 3% of fires!
  4. 4. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Fire Problem 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 NumberofFires(K) 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Year AreaBurned(Kkm 2 ) Increasing Area Burned Similar Number of Fires National Interagency Fire Center Statistics Larger Fires are Occurring More Often 95% of area burned by 3% of fires!
  5. 5. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Fire Problem 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 NumberofFires(K) 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Year AreaBurned(Kkm 2 ) 1980 2000 2020 0 $500M $1B $1.5B $2B FederalSuppressionCosts Year Suppression Costs Similarly Increasing National Interagency Fire Center Statistics 95% of area burned by 3% of fires!
  6. 6. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Fire Problem 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 NumberofFires(K) 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Year AreaBurned(Kkm 2 ) 1980 2000 2020 0 $500M $1B $1.5B $2B FederalSuppressionCosts Year Suppression Costs Similarly Increasing National Interagency Fire Center Statistics Suppression is only small fraction of real costs 95% of area burned by 3% of fires!
  7. 7. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Fire Problem 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 NumberofFires(K) 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Year AreaBurned(Kkm 2 ) Increasing Area Burned Similar Number of Fires National Interagency Fire Center Statistics Larger Fires are Occurring More Often “Megafires”
  8. 8. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Cedar Fire San Diego, CA (2003) 2,200+ Homes Lost $27 million – Suppression ~$1 billion – Insured Losses 14 Fatalities
  9. 9. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Ft. McMurray Fire Alberta, Canada, 2016 $3.58 billion Insured Damages ~$9.5 billion direct & indirect 1.45 million acres 2,400 buildings destroyed 2 indirect fatalities CBC News, W. Snowdon, Jan 17, 2017
  10. 10. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Knoxville Mercury
  11. 11. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Firebrand Ignitions Luis Hidalgo/AP Union Tribune
  12. 12. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Firebrand Ignitions Luis Hidalgo/AP Union Tribune Most homes at the Wildland-Urban Interface ignite due to small, flying embers, not the main fire Maranghides, Mell, 2009, A Case Study of a Community Affected by the Witch and Guejito Fires (NIST TN
  13. 13. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Compiled and mapped by the Fire Modeling Institute; Fire, Fuel and Smoke Program; Rocky Mountain Research Station; Missoula, MT; 4/5/2012
  14. 14. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Hazards Yarnell Hill, AZ (2013) 19 Firefighter Fatalities Lack of situational awareness & communication
  15. 15. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Fire Models: A critical tool • Operational Fire Management • Active Fires • Fire Danger Rating • Dispatch Rules • Evacuations • Planning • Risk Analysis • Fuel Treatment Design • Management Plans • Training • Fire Behavior • NWCG S-Courses • Research • Climate • Ecology • Fire Behavior Prescribed burn - White Mountain National Forest (USDA FS) Probability contours and exposure of resources and assets. Calkin, Finney, et al.
  16. 16. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Modeling Fire: The Challenge • Fire modeling occurs over many scales
  17. 17. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Modeling Fire: The Challenge • Fire modeling occurs over many scales Flame Dynamics Home Ignition Smoke and Emissions Topography Wind and WeatherFuels and Ecology
  18. 18. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Modeling Fire: The Challenge • Fire modeling occurs over many scales • Many disparate communities – Foresters, Ecologists – Engineers – Atmospheric Scientists – Remote Sensing
  19. 19. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Modeling Fire: The Challenge • Fire modeling occurs over many scales • Many disparate communities – Foresters, Ecologists – Engineers – Atmospheric Scientists – Remote Sensing • Lack of good data – Most on-the-ground data from smaller, prescribed burns – Satellites lack spatial, temporal resolution
  20. 20. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Current State of the Art • Empirically-based Models – BehavePlus (Rothermel/USFS RMRS Missoula) – FARSITE (Finney/USFS RMRS Missoula) – FlamMap (Finney/USFS RMRS Missoula) – WFDSS (Finney/Calkin) – Incorporating Fire Spread with Risk Management
  21. 21. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Current State of the Art • Empirically-based Models – BehavePlus (Rothermel/USFS RMRS Missoula) – FARSITE (Finney/USFS RMRS Missoula) – FlamMap (Finney/USFS RMRS Missoula) – WFDSS (Finney/Calkin) – Incorporating Fire Spread with Risk Management • Coupled Atmospheric Models (weather + surface) – WRF-Fire (Coen/NCAR) • Incorporate weather with empirical surface model – FireTEC (Rodd Linn/Los Alamos National Lab) • Incorporate weather with semi-physical surface model (slow, research only) – Fire Dynamics Simulator (Mell/McGrattan – NIST/USFS) • CFD with focus on Wildland-Urban Interface
  22. 22. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Current State of the Art • Empirically-based Models – BehavePlus (Rothermel/USFS RMRS Missoula) – FARSITE (Finney/USFS RMRS Missoula) – FlamMap (Finney/USFS RMRS Missoula) – WFDSS (Finney/Calkin) – Incorporating Fire Spread with Risk Management • Coupled Atmospheric Models (weather + surface) – WRF-Fire (Coen/NCAR) • Incorporate weather with empirical surface model – FireTEC (Rodd Linn/Los Alamos National Lab) • Incorporate weather with semi-physical surface model (slow, research only) – Fire Dynamics Simulator (Mell/McGrattan – NIST/USFS) • CFD with focus on Wildland-Urban Interface • Mapping – Fuel Mapping (Landfire, Landsat) – Satellite Fire Detection (MODIS, VIIRS) – Airborn IR (NIROPS)
  23. 23. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Future • Need for a better physical model. – How do Wildfires Spread? Missoula Comb Burn
  24. 24. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Future • Need for a better physical model. – How do Wildfires Spread? – Rothermel Spread Equation • Basis for all US Systems (1960’s) • Not because it’s right, but because its’ useful Texas Prescribed Fire Crown Fire Experiments Missoula Comb Burn ScalingKnowledgeUp
  25. 25. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Future • Need for a better physical model. – How do Wildfires Spread? – Rothermel Spread Equation • Basis for all US Systems (1960’s • Not because it’s right, but because its’ useful • Data Assimilation – Filling the gap between models and missing data
  26. 26. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Future • Need for a better physical model. – How do Wildfires Spread? – Rothermel Spread Equation • Basis for all US Systems (1960’s • Not because it’s right, but because its’ useful • Data Assimilation – Filling the gap between models and missing data • Improved Measurements – Higher resolution and time response – Improve understanding and response – New satellites, UAV’s, larger fires, etc. NASA’s Ihanka Unmanned Aerial System Improved Spatial Measurements with VIIRS (UMD/UCAR)
  27. 27. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The Future • Need for a better physical model. – How do Wildfires Spread? – Rothermel Spread Equation • Basis for all US Systems (1960’s • Not because it’s right, but because its’ useful • Data Assimilation – Filling the gap between models and missing data • Improved Measurements – Higher resolution and time response – Improve understanding and response – New satellites, UAV’s, larger fires, etc. • Wildland-Urban Interface – Tools and knowledge critically needed!
  28. 28. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: The End

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