A generic, empirical-based model for predicting rate of fire spread in shrublands



Publication Details

Anderson, W. R., Cruz, M. G., Fernandes, P. M., Mccaw, L., Vega, J., Bradstock, R. A., Fogarty, L., Gould, J., Mccarthy, G., Marsden-Smedley, J. B., Matthews, S., Mattingley, G., Pearce, H. & van Wilgen, B. (2015). A generic, empirical-based model for predicting rate of fire spread in shrublands. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 24 (4), 443-460.


A shrubland fire behaviour dataset was assembled using data from experimental studies in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South Africa. The dataset covers a wide range of heathlands and shrubland species associations and vegetation structures. Three models for rate of spread are developed using 2-m wind speed, a wind reduction factor, elevated dead fuel moisture content and either vegetation height (with or without live fuel moisture content) or bulk density. The models are tested against independent data from prescribed fires and wildfires and found to predict fire spread rate within acceptable limits (mean absolute errors varying between 3.5 and 9.1 m min-1). A simple model to predict dead fuel moisture content is evaluated, and an ignition line length correction is proposed. Although the model can be expected to provide robust predictions of rate of spread in a broad range of shrublands, the effects of slope steepness and variation in fuel quantity and composition are yet to be quantified. The model does not predict threshold conditions for continuous fire spread, and future work should focus on identifying fuel and weather factors that control transitions in fire behaviour.

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