Fire eruption through intensity and spread rate interaction mediated by flow attachment

J. W. Dold, A. Zinoviev

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    Conditions under which a fire has a stable steady spread rate or under which it is able to spread eruptively up a slope or in confined topography are of considerable interest from a practical and safety point of view. The physical interactions that give rise to either form of behaviour are investigated by way of a mathematical model, in which different expressions for the rate of feedback from intensity into spread-rate are found to identify a threshold between eruptive and stable spread of a line fire. In turn, changes in the fireline intensity in any unsteady evolution are mainly determined by the history of the spread-rate over a burnout time (in effect, by changes in flame depth). Under stable conditions, any initial spread-rate evolves towards the steady spread rate on a time-scale of the order of the burnout time. But above the threshold, eruptive fire-growth sets in; the spread-rate and intensity both grow indefinitely. It is argued that a change in the nature of the flow field around a line fire engenders the change from one form of behaviour to another. If the air flow separates at the flame, so that air is drawn away from the ground and vegetation surface, then the model provides strong reasons to expect that the steady spread rate is stable. On the other hand, laboratory experiments and a controlled field burn confirm that eruptive behaviour is more likely to be associated with flow attachment. As a result, if the air immediately ahead of a fire that is spreading uphill, flows up the slope away from the fire then conditions arise for a potentially very dangerous acceleration in the spread-rate of the fire, along with a corresponding growth in its intensity. As is shown by the experiments, this form of air-flow can be generated by the fire itself without any change in external conditions such as ambient wind. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)763-793
    Number of pages30
    JournalCombustion Theory and Modelling
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


    • Bushfire
    • Byram number
    • Fire blowup
    • Forest fire eruption
    • Wildfire


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