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Fire Safety at the Wildland/Urban Interface

Learn About Fuel

As we learned in the first chapter, 96% of fires are started by some type of human action. Fire behavior describes how fuels ignite, flames develop, and fires spread. The things which most influence fire behavior in the wildlands are fuel, weather, and terrain. These three elements make up the fire behavior triangle (Figure 7.3).

    Fuel: There is a difference between fire and flame. Flames indicate that there is fire, but fire can be burning in the form of embers without any visible flame. Fires can spread without flames being seen.

    The fuel is ignited as the fire spreads by one of the three methods just mentioned (radiation, convection or conduction). The quality of the fuel (e.g., highly combustible resinous plants like pines or less combustible plants like succulents) has a lot to do with how well the fire can spread. Fires that burn hot enough to ignite logs get hotter from the combustion of the dense fuel in the log.

    The shape of the fuel can also have a lot to do with its combustibility. Needles and fine foliaged plants will ignite more quickly than densely leaved plants or tree trunks, and, as discussed above, the arrangement of the fuels influences fire behavior. Are they continuous? Are they piled in a way that a lot of air can move through them? Are they arranged vertically so fires can easily climb up?

The slope of the land during a fire affects the speed at which the fire advances.  See what other factors influence fire spread.

 

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Last modified: 09/10/13