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Numerical Study of the Interaction Between a Head Fire and a Backfire Propagating in Grassland

Morvan, D., Meradji S. and Mell, W. E., 2011. Numerical Study of the Interaction Between a Head Fire and a Backfire Propagating in Grassland. Fire Safety Science 10: 1415-1424. 10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.10-1415


One of the objectives of this paper was to simulate numerically the interaction between two line fires ignited in a grassland, on a flat terrain, perpendicularly to the wind direction, in such a way that the two fire fronts (a head fire and a backfire) propagated in opposite directions parallel to the wind. The numerical simulations were conducted in 3D using the new fuel element module recently implemented in WFDS. We chose a grassland for the fuel layer, because it represents certainly one of the most studied ecosystem, in the frame of experimental campaigns to study the behaviour of surface fires at large scale. The aim of this numerical study is to understand what are the physical phenomena and the favorable conditions of ignition of a counter fire, during a fire suppression operation. The preliminary results highlighted that the two fire fronts interacted only at a relative short distance (10-20 m), following this scenario: • The thermal plume above the head fire (representing the main fire front) formed a sort of shelter, protecting the backfire to the direct effect of the wind flow • Before the merging between the two fire fronts, an in-draft flow was observed ahead of the head fire, promoting and accelerating the propagation of the backfire During the last step of the merging of the two fire fronts, a sudden increase of the heat release rate was observed, indicating a significant interaction between the two fires, which can potentially represent a safety problem for people in charge of this kind of operation.

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