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International Journal of Wildland Fire
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 Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.


High-Resolution Observations of Combustion in Heterogeneous Surface Fuels

Eva (Louise) Loudermilk, Gary Achtemeier, Joseph OBrien, John Hiers, Benjamin Hornsby

Abstract

In ecosystems with frequent surface fires, fire and fuel heterogeneity at relevant scales have been largely ignored. This could be because complete burns give an impression of homogeneity, or due to the difficulty in capturing fine-scale variation in fuel characteristics and fire behavior. Fire movement between patches of fuel can have implications for modeling fire spread and understanding ecological effects. We collected high resolution (0.8 cm x 0.8 cm pixels) visual and thermal imaging data during fire passage over 4 m x 4 m plots of mixed fuel beds consisting of pine litter and grass during two prescribed burns within the longleaf pine forests of Eglin Air Force Base, FL in February 2011. Fuel types were identified by passing multi-spectral digital images through a color recognition algorithm in “Rabbit Rules,” an experimental coupled fire-atmosphere fire spread model. Image fuel types were validated against field fuel types. Relationships between fuel characteristics and fire behavior measurements at multiple resolutions (e.g., 0.8 cm x 0.8 cm to 33 cm x 33 cm) were analyzed using a regression tree approach. There were strong relationships between fire behavior and fuels, especially at the 33 cm x 33 cm scale (R2=0.40-0.69), where image-to-image overlap error was reduced and fuels were well characterized. Distinct signatures were found for individual and coupled fuel types for determining fire behavior, illustrating the importance of understanding fire-fuel heterogeneity at fine-scales. Simulating fire spread at this fine-scale may be critical for understanding fire effects, such as understory plant community assembly. Our next step in that process includes using the high-resolution distribution of fuels to model fire spread and fire spread rate using the Rabbit Rules model.

WF13160  Accepted 28 March 2014
 
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