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Some Difficult Problems in the Modeling of Fire Spread



Kathryn M. Butler, Thomas J. Ohlemiller


A fire and the objects involved in the fire form a highly complex dynamic system. Important processes occur over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, from the microscales of thermodynamics and chemical kinetics, through the mesoscales of heat transport, bubbling behavior, and flow, to the macroscales of room flashover and forest fires. Processes of primary importance in the spread of fire may include ignition, chemical degradation, charring, suppression, heat transfer, and radiation. The geometry of burning objects is a critical factor.Although significant progress has been made in computational modeling of fire spread, these models are based on empirical determination of the rate of heat release from ignited objects, usually obtained from small-scale fire testing. The standard finite difference and finite element techniques are limited in their ability to simulate the large changes in shape that accompany the burning of thermoplastic objects. A breakthrough in numerical modeling techniques is needed. Might meshfree methods provide the next jump in modeling capability?
Proceedings Title
7th World Congress on Computational Mechanics
Conference Dates
July 16-22, 2006
Conference Title
Computational Mechanics


fire growth, melting, polymers, thermoplastics


Butler, K. and Ohlemiller, T. (2006), Some Difficult Problems in the Modeling of Fire Spread, 7th World Congress on Computational Mechanics, [online], (Accessed April 17, 2024)
Created July 16, 2006, Updated February 19, 2017