Work Package 3: Flammability of key UK land covers

Our ability to estimate fire danger requires an understanding of the flammability of key UK fuels. It can be described by three aspects; ignitability, sustainability and combustibility. Ignitability describes how long a fuel will take to ignite; Sustainability describes whether or not a fire will propagate once the ignition source is removed; and Combustibility is the rate at which the fuel in the fire burns. However, it is the latter of these descriptors that are of key concern to estimating fire danger because they relate to the fires’ rate of spread and fireline intensity which are the key aspects that determine the ability of controlling a fire by Fire and Rescue Services and land managers.

The UK’s and Northwest Europe’s major burned areas have distinctive fuel types that have little relationship to those described by existing fire danger ratings systems, e.g. Australia or North America, which makes it difficult to adapt existing systems to the UK directly. Here we propose to characterise the flammable properties of the fuels that comprise the main land cover classes in the UK, thereby establishing input variables required for estimating the fire behaviour component of a UK FDRS.

Key research questions:

RQ3.1: How variable is the core flammability and energy content of key UK land cover types in time and space?

RQ3.2: How does fire behaviour vary in key UK land covers across the seasons?

Planned deliverables:

D3.1: Determine the flammability and energy content of key UK fuels

D3.2: Produce measurements of fire behaviour in key UK fuel types using field scale fire experiments.

Key organisations and team members: University of Exeter (CB, AE, SB), Swansea University (SD, CS, TN)