Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Kozo Saito


Live foliage for some tree and shrub species can support flaming fire spread at much higher moisture content than dead fuel materials. However, the role of live fuels in forest fires has been controversial in the past decades. Although ignition and spread statistical data for live and dead fuels exist in the literature, a clear understanding of the fundamental difference in the burning behavior is missing. To illuminate the role of live fuel on forest fire spreading, a laboratory ignition experiment was designed to examine the burning behavior of live Norway spruce needles. A schlieren-Infrared combined measurement apparatus was developed with a spatial resolution of 0.75 mm and a time resolution of 0.0025s, to visualize/measure the ignition behavior of live fuels. Schlieren and IR images revealed that the ejection of live fuel volatiles could alter the flame direction and induce previously unaccounted heating of the nearby fuel. Depending on the conditions, these interferences could heat and modify the heat flux received by the adjacent fuels. To analyze each of these outcomes, a scaling analysis using the law approach was performed. First, theoretical equations were developed and validated against a set of previously published experimental data. After the characteristic equations were verified, we used them to assess the volatile ejection phenomenon. We found that adjacent fuels were preheated by hot volatiles ejected from the heated live needle, and direct flame contact ignited the adjacent fuels. Our IR experiments confirmed the outcomes of the scaling analysis. The rapid ejection of volatiles was also found to propel burning needles far from the burning branch, resulting in micro-spotting.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture-Forest Service: ROCKY MOUNTAIN RESEARCH STATION (Grant no.: 17CS11221637099) in 2017-2018.

Available for download on Wednesday, September 27, 2023