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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Visit by Dr Fiorucci and seminar on wildfire risk

Paolo Fiorucci from CIMA (Univ. of Genoa, Italy) will give a lunchtime seminar on the 9th of February on "A general framework for wildfire risk assessment and management in Mediterranean area" in the AGB Seminar Room at 1.15 pm. Abstract bellow.

Paolo Fiorucci has a PhD in Environmental Monitoring. He is currently project leader at CIMA. CIMA is a Joint-Foundation between the University of Genoa and the Italian Civil Protection. It supports research in the field of civilian and environmental protection. His research interests focus on forest fire risk assessment and management by means of statistical analysis and dynamic model development. He is author and coauthor of more then 30 papers, 7 published in international refereed journals. He is also teaching assistant from 1997 supporting different courses on Modelling and Simulation, Natural risk management and Forest
Fires within the undergraduate courses on Environmental Engineering and Electronic Engineering at the University of Genoa. He has been and he his Scientific Director of several national and international projects.

A general framework for wildfire risk assessment and management in Mediterranean area

The analysis of time series of burned areas combined with a detailed knowledge of topography, land cover and climate conditions allow understanding which are the main features involved in forest fire occurrences and their behaviour. Based on this information it is possible to develop statistical methods for the objective
classification of forest fire static risk at regional scale. The analysis suggests that fire regime in Mediterranean ecosystem is strictly related with species highly vulnerable to fire but highly resilient, as characterized by a significant regenerative capacity after the fire spreading. Only rarely, and characterized by negligible damage, the fire affects the areas covered by climax species in relation with altitude and soil types (i.e, quercus, fagus, abies). On the basis of these results, it is proved how the simple Drossel-Schwabl Forest Fire Model is able to reproduce the forest fire regime in terms of number of fires and burned area.
On this basis, an experimental propagation model has been developed to provide Italian Civil Protection Department (DPC) with rapid active fire risk assessment maps. The propagation model is based on stochastic cellular automata. The model provides in a fast and simple way realistic scenarios useful for active fire management, highlighting the zones where the fire attack can be more effective. Several case studies proved that the model give better results in case of complex terrain and vegetation mosaic. In case of flat terrain and homogeneous fire dependent vegetation cover, the fire perimeter is mainly determined by meteorological variability (wind speed and direction) and fire attack. In fact, extreme fire hazard situations are strictly related with extreme weather conditions mainly related with very low relative humidity and strong winds. Such extreme situations are generally well defined by Numerical Weather Prediction Models up to 48 h before the event occurs. In this connection Fire Hazard forecast systems are able to anticipate the extreme fire situation up to 48 hours. The system RISICO provides Italian Civil Protection Department (DPC) with daily wildland fire risk forecast maps relevant to the whole national territory since 2003. The RISICO system has a complex software architecture based on a framework able to manage geospatial data as well as time dependent information (e.g, Numerical Weather Prediction, real time meteorological observations, and satellite data). Within the system semi-physical models, able to simulate in space and time the variability of the fuel moisture content, are implemented. This parameter represents the main variable related with the ignition of a fire. Based on this information and introducing information on topography and wind field the model provides the rate of spread and the linear intensity of a potential fire generated by accidental or deliberate ignition. The model takes into account the vegetation patterns, in terms of fuel load and flammability. Integrating in a single framework the complete suite of all the models introduced above it is possible to critically reduce fire risk thus preventing serious environmental damages.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Summer placement at Lothian & Borders Fire Service

“You, come wi’ me, we’ll go cut the door offa car”
Like many final year MEng students I didn't know what I wanted to do after graduation; so when Prof. Torero asked me if I wanted to do a PhD in Fire Engineering I thought, why not?
The only problem was that I had absolutely no idea what “fire engineering” was, so to do a PhD in it seemed a bit far-fetched. I asked what I could do to bring me up to speed. The answer? “Well, you could join the Lothian & Borders Fire Service if you want…”
So in July 2009, a couple of months before I was due to start my PhD, I walked into the Fire HQ with Jonny (a first-year UoE student) to begin our internship. I was wearing a shirt and tie as instructed; I signed in, got a name badge and waited for Bob (the fire-fighter tasked with looking after us for the next 6 weeks).

“Tea?” he says (fire-fighters seem to run on tea). “No? Right let’s head down to the ship.” I was soon to find out that he was referring to the Fire Training Centre – so named for the big old metal ship sitting in the back yard. After another cup of tea and a safety brief, we were kitted out with equipment and breathing apparatus (BA). By 10am we were following an instructor through smoke-filled compartments. We spent the next week crawling around that ship through heat, smoke, dirt and water, watching the fire fighters at work and doing some fire fighting ourselves. It was awesome.
On day three we were sitting in on a fire safety lecture when the boss opened the door, pointed at the two of us and said: “You two! Come with me.” He then turned to the instructor giving the lecture and said: “They won’t be back.” The next thing you know we were fully geared up in BA, blindfolded and put through the “crawling cages” – a sort of pitch-black, claustrophobic assault course. A wee bitty mental, but otherwise great fun.
The internship allowed us to see every part of what the fire service do. We got to take part in fire investigation, public education and a water rescue (involving wetsuits, ropes, a fast-flowing river and of course, a BBQ). We were even driven down the runways of Edinburgh Airport in a £750,000 fire engine.
By far the best part of the internship was being “on the run” at Sighthill fire station (I don’t think I ever really got over the novelty of the pole). Every day we would be called out to incidents or get to try out a new piece of equipment, ranging from ladders to foam cannons to the jaws-of-life. I’ll never forget it when a fire-fighter turned to me and said: “you, come wi’ me, we’ll go cut the door off a car.”
If nothing else, my internship with the fire service gave me a story to tell; sure I got an introduction into the world of fire engineering, but more importantly I got to live out every 5-year-old schoolboy's dream - to be a fireman! It was awesome.

by Mike Woodrow, 1st year PhD student

Visit by Dr Oliveras and seminar on fire dynamics and carbon losses

Dr. Imma Oliveras, environmental scientist at the University of Oxford, is visiting the fire group and will give a seminar to IIE on 4 Feb at 1pm in the Alexander Graham Bell Bldg (seminar room, 3rd floor).

Dr Oliveras is a Post Doctoral Research Associate working on the dynamics and carbon implications of fires. She is interested on how human-induced disturbances affect ecological processes, and implications for climate change and biodiversity conservation. She has studied the cloud forests of the Peruvian Andes, the Brazilian savannah grasslands and the Mediterranean ecosystems.

Seminar abstract:


Dr. Imma Oliveras
School of Geography and the Environment
University of Oxford

In the Andes, humid Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCFs) sit immediately below highly flammable, high altitude dry grasslands (the puna) that have suffered from recurrent anthropogenic fires for millennia, with the treeline sitting at approximately 3000 m. This treeline is a zone of ecological and climatic tension: on the one hand, rising temperatures and cloud heights may have a tendency to push the ecotone upwards, encouraging forest expansion into the puna. On the other hand, increased aridity in the puna (driven by rising temperates and evapotranspiration, and possibly by reducing precipitation), coupled with intensified human pressure, is increasing fire occurrence and penetration into the cloud forest. This research project aims analyze the fire dynamics of this treeline, and to perform accurate estimates to carbon losses due to combustion by combining fire satellite detection, on-ground observations and experimental tests.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Christmas Tree Fire Safety

This is a fire test of a Christmas tree carried out in our lab. The tree had been in the home of one of our research students for a few weeks over Christmas time. No accelerants were used, this is simply the burning of the tree, ignited by a single candle which was allowed to burn down. The candle burned for 18 uneventful minutes before the start of the video clip.

The peak heat release rate of the fire was about 2.5 MW!

Please be careful with candles on Christmas trees next year!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Visiting researcher at Tokyo University of Science

Our PhD student Sung-Han Koo has been awarded an International Young Researcher Scholarship which will fund a 3-month visit to the Center for Fire Science and Technology in the Research Institute for Science and Technology at Tokyo University of Science, Japan. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An exercise in peer review

A few years ago I was involved in the organisation of a conference. The selection process for speakers at the conference involved the submission of abstracts for the presentations / papers, which were reviewed by all members of the scientific committee, who ranked the abstract on a scale from 0 (reject) to 4 (excellent). The rankings of each of the reviewers were averaged for each paper and any paper with an average score of less than 2.0 was rejected.

Over a hundred abstracts were submitted and fewer than five papers were ultimately rejected from the conference.

Unbeknownst to the scientific committee, one of the submitted abstracts was a fake, created to test the review system. The abstract was written by the wife of one of the conference organisers, who knows very little about the field of Fire Safety Science. She was given a few recent copies of 'Combustion & Flame' and left to create a nonsense abstract, using words and phrases found in genuine abstracts.

The fake abstract read as follows:

Pressure, Elongation and Deformation Analysis of SB in Laminar Partially-Mixed Flames

Centre for Flame Research
Hayward, California
United States

Pressure effects, elongation rates and deformation coefficients on Soot Ball (SB) manipulation in peripheral fragmentation has been investigated in a thick-under chaotic-zones regime using non-compromising direct flame propagation models with physicochemical processes. It is commonly known that the effects of SB phenomena quantitatively as well as qualitatively perpetuate the growth rate, according to Chebyshev polynomials, of solid propellant flames and therefore follow an anisotropic analysis. An apparatus which simulates sufficiently high steam partial pressures was erected to deliver the thermo chemical conditions needed and much desired to approach the soot model studied in the present work. Internal gas velocity analysis in the flame region and the Guinier and Prodo-based scattering theory were essential elements to the development of this work. The Stochastic fields greatly contributed to thermal equilibrium between phases nevertheless allowing for heat transfer during the process of acceleration. Measurements of heat transfer serve to further evaluate the SB phenomena confirming the findings by Singh et al. (2006). Nevertheless, the deformations were observed to remain static.

The abstract received an average ranking of 1.7 from the scientific panel, relegating it to rejection. However, this was a better score than two genuine submissions and two members of the panel ranked the abstract with a score of 3!

Still, its good to know that peer review works. Sometimes.