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Carlos G. Rossa, Paulo M. Fernandes
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Fire Behavior

NRFSN number: 18760
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Currently, there is a dispute on whether live fuel moisture content (FMC) should be accounted for when predicting a real-world fire-spread rate (RoS). The laboratory and field data results are conflicting: laboratory trials show a significant effect of live FMC on RoS, which has not been convincingly detected in the field. It has been suggested that the lack of influence of live FMC on RoS might arise from differences in the ignition of dead and live fuels: flammability trials using live leaves subjected to high heat fluxes (80–140 kW m−2) show that ignition occurs before all of the moisture is vaporized. We analyze evidence from recent studies, and hypothesize that differences in the ignition mechanisms between dead and live fuels do not preclude the use of overall fine FMC for attaining acceptable RoS predictions. We refer to a simple theory that consists of two connected hypotheses to explain why the effect of live FMC on field fires RoS has remained elusive so far: H1, live tree foliage FMC remains fairly constant over the year; and H2, the seasonal variation of live shrubs’ FMC correlates with the average dead FMC. As a result, the effect of live FMC is not easily detected by statistical analysis.


Rossa CG, and Fernandes PM. 2018. Live Fuel Moisture Content: The ‘Pea Under the Mattress’ of Fire Spread Rate Modeling? Fire 1(3), 43.

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