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Simulating Wildfire Containment with Realistic Tactics

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Existing simulation models for fire protection planning rely on a containment algorithm which fails to account for the interaction between the production of containment line and a fire's capacity to spread. This paper describes a technique for simulating wildland fire containment which explicitly accounts for this interaction by extending, generalizing, and, in some cases, simplifying methods reported earlier (Anderson 1983, Albini et al. 1978, Mees 1985, Anderson 1989). Representing the containment boundary in parametric form [i.e., expressing its Cartesian (x, y) or polar (r, ) coordinates as functions of a dimensionless parameter instead of specifying y as a function of x or r as a function of ], leads to a formalism with two significant advantages: (1) it allows a free choice for the shape of the free burning fire boundary, and (2) it is appropriate for simulations of parallel (indirect) attack as well as direct head and tail attack. In general, the technique requires solution of a first-order, nonlinear, differential equation, a task easily accomplished using numerical methods. The dependence of final fire size and containment time on the line-building rate and eccentricity of the free burning fire boundary are illustrated with the special case of an expanding ellipse and constant line-building rate, for which the containment boundary can be obtained by a simple quadrature. Our General Formulation algorithm is demonstrated with a series of simulations that span the range of likely parameters for fire spread and fireline production. Comparisons made on representative fires between predictions of the General Formulation and models currently in use indicate that current models almost always overestimate fire size, sometimes by as much as an order of magnitude. For. Sci. 42(3):267-281.

Keywords: Initial attack suppression modeling

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Publication date: August 1, 1996

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  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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