Study: Adaptation of QES-Fire, a dynamically coupled fast response wildfire model for heterogeneous environments


Background: Modelling of fire front progression is challenging due to the large range of spatial and temporal scales involved in the interactions between the atmosphere and fire fronts. Further modelling complications arise when heterogeneous terrain and fuels are considered.

Aims: The aim of this study was to create a new parameterisation for wildfire-induced winds that accounts for the effects of heterogeneous terrain and fuels within the QES-Fire modelling framework – a fast-response wildfire model.

Methods: QES-Fire’s new turbulent plume merging model allows for distinct plumes to be merged together from fires burning in heterogeneous terrain with heterogeneous fuels. Additionally, fuel inputs from the LANDFIRE database developed for the Rothermel rate of spread (ROS) model, are translated to the Balbi ROS model.

Key results: The model was evaluated against the forested RxCADRE field experiment, with and without the effects of heterogeneity. Inclusion of heterogeneity reduced the relative error in burned area from 36 to 6%.

Conclusions: Small variations in terrain and fuel heterogeneity lead to large errors in rate and direction of fire front spread.

Implications: The modelled effects of terrain and fuel heterogeneity indicated the importance of capturing the complex coupled wildfire–atmospheric dynamics at the fire front.

(Co-authors: Moody Matthew J., Stoll Rob, Bailey Brian N.)

Read the study:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 32, 749-766. 2023