Grassland fire research at The University of Texas at Austin

While a large number of wildland fires are burning through West Texas and threatening the safety of life and property of Texans, the fire research group at The University of Texas at Austin is actively working with physics-based computer models and laboratory-scale fire tests to characterize the fuel properties and flame spread characteristics of grassland fuels.

Computer model of grassland fire simulation

Computer model of grassland fire simulation

At UT Austin, we have been performing small-scale, controlled experiments in our burn structure to determine ignition times and burning rates for grassland fuels as well as intermediate-scale, controlled experiments to determine the fuel and combustion properties of grass fuels, the effects of external wind on ember production, and the heat release rates of grass bunches.

Controlled grass fire test in the UT Austin burn structure

Controlled grass fire test in the UT Austin burn structure

We can utilize the results of the small- and intermediate-scale experiments in full-scale computer simulations of grassland fires using modeling tools such as Wildland-urban interface Fire Dynamics Simulator (WFDS).

Using the results and methods from these controlled experiments along with the help of the wildland fire community, we plan to develop a framework to determine fuel properties of wildland fuels, predict the physics and fire dynamics behavior of wildland fires, and achieve safer conditions for people and property faced with the threat of wildland fire situations.