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Measuring Firebrand Heat Flux with a Thin-Skin Calorimeter



Amy Mensch, Savannah Wessies, Anthony Hamins, Jiann C. Yang


While the impact of wildland-urban interface fires is growing, firebrand exposure is a significant but not well understood contributor to fire spread. The ignition threat of firebrand exposures can be characterized by measuring the heat transfer of glowing firebrands to a surface. The current study presents a novel method for conducting time-resolved heat transfer measurements from individual firebrands across a range of flow conditions. Experiments are conducted with individual glowing firebrands generated from birch discs and placed on a copper thin skin calorimeter of the same diameter, which is embedded in the substrate. The net heat flux from the firebrand to the thin skin calorimeter is obtained from the thermal energy storage in the thin skin calorimeter, plus heat conduction losses to the substrate. Values of peak net heat flux, total heating, duration of heating are reported under different flow conditions from 0.05 m/s to 1.6 m/s. The average peak net heat flux for the disc-shaped birch firebrands is 45 kW/m2, and does not change significantly with flow condition. However, there is an increase in the total heating, duration of heating, and total mass consumed as the flow velocity increases.
Fire Safety Journal


wildland-urban interface fires, firebrands, heat transfer, heat flux, thin skin calorimeter


Mensch, A. , Wessies, S. , Hamins, A. and Yang, J. (2023), Measuring Firebrand Heat Flux with a Thin-Skin Calorimeter, Fire Safety Journal, [online],, (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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Created July 11, 2023, Updated August 3, 2023