U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Final Report. JFSP Project 06-1-1-09


US government work.


One major source of uncertainty in fire behavior predictions is the spatial variation in winds blowing over mountainous terrain. Fire managers have not had access to “real time” predictions of surface wind flow. With the generous support of the JFSP and additional funding from several USDA Forest Service sources a wind simulation tool has been developed and tested. This project had three primary objectives: 1. Support wildland fire incident management teams with surface wind flow simulations. 2. Validate, improve and document the utility of gridded wind as a fire management decision support tool. 3. Produce technical documentation, including a user’s guide, help tools, and tutorials for the standalone wind simulation tool. A rapid response team was formed and supported fire management operations in the US during the 2006, 2007 and 2008 fire seasons. More than 2000 wind simulations on hundreds of fires across US have been completed. The wind models developed are being used to support research and land management focused on fire growth and intensity but also unexpected applications like flying insect pheromone dispersion, and seed dispersal. Fire managers have found the wind simulation tools to provide reliable, timely, and detailed information needed for informed fire management decisions. The tools have also provided valuable information about the conditions leading to firefighter entrapments. In the original proposal we proposed that success of the research team in meeting the stated objectives be measured by three methods: 1) the degree to which gridded wind technology is adopted and used by fire management teams (simply accounting of the number of people using it), 2) keeping a record of comments and statements from users regarding the utility of the technology as a decision support tool, 3) objective comparison of simulated and measured wind data to quantify the accuracy of the tool. By all three metrics this effort has been a success. Not one, but two wind simulation tools have been developed. One is based on a commercial software code and therefore comes with an associated license fee, but it also is more accurate due to additional included physics and is computationally more intensive. The second was developed by the research team as a free, less accurate, but computationally faster alternative. The bottom line is that there is little excuse for any fire fighting crew or fire management team not having some capability to simulate surface air flow. Our efforts have demonstrated significant advantages in terms of more accurate fire behavior predictions, increased public and firefighter safety, and more effective use of firefighting resources.