Role of Firebrand Combustion in Large Outdoor Fire Spread
Samuel L. Manzello, Sayaka Suzuki, Michael Gollner, A C. Fernandez-Pello
Large outdoor fires are an increasing danger to the built environment. Wildfires that spread into com- munities, labeled as Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) fires, are an example of large outdoor fires. Other examples of large outdoor fires are urban fires including those that may occur after earthquakes as well as in informal settlements. When vegetation and structures burn in large outdoor fires, pieces of burning material, known as firebrands, are generated, become lofted, and may be carried by the wind. This results in showers of wind-driven firebrands that may land ahead of the fire front, igniting vegetation and structures, and spreading the fire very fast. Post-fire disaster studies indicate that firebrand showers are a significant factor in the fire spread of multiple large outdoor fires. The present paper provides a comprehensive literature summary on the role of firebrand mechanisms on large outdoor fire spread. Experiments, models, and simulations related to firebrand generation, lofting, burning, transport, deposition, and ignition of materials are reviewed. Japan, a country that has been greatly influenced by ignition induced by firebrands that have resulted in severe large outdoor fires, is also highlighted here as most of this knowledge remains not available in the English language literature. The paper closes with a summary of the key research needs on this globally important problem.