Published works

Published works

Threshold Behaviour in Dynamic Fire Propagation Conference Paper 2014

TitleThreshold Behaviour in Dynamic Fire Propagation Conference Paper 2014
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSharples, JJ, Simpson, C, Evans, JP, McRae, RHD
Conference NameBushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014
Date Published02/2015

Recent research has demonstrated that under conditions of extreme fire weather, bushfires burning in rugged terrain can exhibit distinctly dynamic patterns of propagation, which can have a dramatic effect on subsequent fire development. Coupled fire-atmosphere modelling using large eddy simulation has been useful in shedding light on the physical mechanisms underlying these phenomena, for example highlighting the important role of fire-induced vorticity. In particular it has confirmed that the onset of dynamic modes of fire propagation is subject to a number of environmental thresholds. This is not the first time that the existence of threshold behaviour in combustion-related systems has been identified. In this paper we provide a brief summary of some combustion-related systems that exhibit threshold behaviour. Specifically we discuss the emergence of dynamic modes of fire propagation in exceedingly simple representations of combustion systems, and the existence of environmental thresholds relating to the propagation of wildfires in rugged terrain. Most significantly, we present new research that specifically investigates the environmental precursors necessary to drive a particular type of dynamic fire propagation known as vorticity-driven lateral spread (VLS). This research extends previous coupled fire-atmosphere modelling, to specifically consider the effect of wind speed and topographic slope ingenerating the fire-induced vorticity necessary to drive VLS.
The modelling results indicate the existence of environmental thresholds beyond which VLS is likely to occur. The results also indicate that the transition from quasi-steady to dynamic fire propagation can be quite abrupt, requiring only minimal changes in wind speed and slope for onset. The propensity for dynamic interactions to produce erratic and dangerous fire behaviour has strong implications for firefighter and community safety.

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