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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 21(2)

Interdependencies between flame length and fireline intensity in predicting crown fire initiation and crown scorch height

Martin E. Alexander A C and Miguel G. Cruz B

A University of Alberta, Department of Renewable Resources and Alberta School of Forest Science and Management, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H1, Canada.
B Bushfire Dynamics and Applications, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and Climate Adaptation Flagship, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: mea2@telus.net

International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(2) 95-113 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF11001
Submitted: 6 January 2011  Accepted: 30 May 2011   Published: 22 November 2011


 
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Abstract

This state-of-knowledge review examines some of the underlying assumptions and limitations associated with the inter-relationships among four widely used descriptors of surface fire behaviour and post-fire impacts in wildland fire science and management, namely Byram’s fireline intensity, flame length, stem-bark char height and crown scorch height. More specifically, the following topical areas are critically examined based on a comprehensive review of the pertinent literature: (i) estimating fireline intensity from flame length; (ii) substituting flame length for fireline intensity in Van Wagner’s crown fire initiation model; (iii) the validity of linkages between the Rothermel surface fire behaviour and Van Wagner’s crown scorch height models; (iv) estimating flame height from post-fire observations of stem-bark char height; and (v) estimating fireline intensity from post-fire observations of crown scorch height. There has been an overwhelming tendency within the wildland fire community to regard Byram’s flame length–fireline intensity and Van Wagner’s crown scorch height–fireline intensity models as universal in nature. However, research has subsequently shown that such linkages among fire behaviour and post-fire impact characteristics are in fact strongly influenced by fuelbed structure, thereby necessitating consideration of fuel complex specific-type models of such relationships.

Additional keywords: fire behaviour, fire impacts, fire modelling, first-order fire effects, flame angle, flame depth, flame-front residence time, ignition pattern, stem-bark char height, surface fire.


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