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Fire Behavior Research

Our fire behavior research agenda focuses on investigating fire dynamics in wildfire and wildland urban interface fires and, fire effects on air quality. Main research themes include, wildland fuel ignition, fire spread behavior, material flammability and fire emissions.

Ignition by Metal Particles

Powerline failures have accounted for several of the most disastrous and costly wildfire events in the state of California. A clear example is the recent Dixie fire in 2021 and the 2007 San Diego fire siege. The life, property and environmental damages costs of powerline caused wildfire and wildland-urban-interface (WUI) fires highlight the urgent nature of the need for greater understanding of conditions under which powerline-caused fires ignite and spread. The ignition of wildland fuels by powerline failures or mechanical equipment is a complex multi-step process governed by the dynamics of ignition particle generation (caused by colliding powerlines or other electrical arcing), transport, and wildland fuel ignition. Because powerline failures may produce particles at a range of temperatures, understanding how even a low temperature particle may eventually lead to a dangerous uncontrollable fire is a critical step for better risk assessments of powerline related fire disasters. Thus, our current work investigates the potential for metal particles from various materials and sizes to ignite wildland fuel beds. Further, to better understand the influence of wildland fuel species on fire behavior, we study ignition potential across various grass species collected locally.

Computer Vision Algorithm Development for Rate of Fire Spread Estimation

This project focuses on developing a computer vision algorithm that calculates fire spread rate based on experiment videos. The computer vision algorithm is validated against thermocouple-derived flame spread rate estimation and a crude visual estimation method. The goal of this project is to validate an algorithm developed in-house, understand its performance in controlled outdoor environments and optimize it for deployment in actual fires.

Understanding the Flammability of Novel Materials

This is a collaborative project between the Material Science Department and collaborators at UC Berkeley. The goal of this project is to test the flammability of novel eco-friendly materials and to develop sensors for temperature monitoring in materials. A series of material treatments are tested, where a selected set of materials have been coated with a fire-retardant coating.


This research is being led by the Cobian-Iñiguez group (PI: Jeanette Cobian-Iñiguez)