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Protocol for testing fire spread models

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Wildfire simulation models have a variety of uses that include:

  • Operational firefighting (e.g. predicting fire behavior at prescribed burns)
  • Wildfire preparedness (e.g. conducting “what-if” scenarios)
  • Wildfire investigation (e.g. evaluating suppression effectiveness)

A full list of potential uses of fire growth simulation models can be found in our review of Fire grown simulation models and landscape fire risk (Section 2.2 in Piqué & Ramón González-Olabarria, 2014) and elsewhere (e.g. Pearce, 2009). Wildfire models for predicting rate of spread and fire intensity were developed independently in the United States (FARSITE), Canada (Prometheus), and Australia. Following model development, these models became widely used and evaluated within the US, Canada, and Australia for the purposes of fire management. Increasingly, these model systems, or components of these systems are being adapted and applied for use in countries with fuels and climates that differ significantly from those for which the models were originally designed (e.g. Portugal, China, Indonesia, the UK etc.). Robust evaluation of the application/adaptation of these models to new fuel types (e.g. heather moorland which is unique to northern Europe) requires significant investment in experimental fire campaigns that is often beyond the budgetary commitments of regional or national governments. This protocol outlines the main ways by which new, non-standard fuels can be included as “custom” fuel models in the US and Canadian model systems, before a discussion of a variety of methods that may be employed to evaluate the rate of spread and fire intensity outputs of such customized models.

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