Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researchers Albert Simeoni and James Urban have received $514,981 from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to develop a model to predict how fire spreads wild lands on fire to communities so fire protection engineers can design homes and surrounding landscaping to better withstand destructive fires.
Simeoni and Urban will focus on the impact of physical distance, wind, specific vegetation and other factors on the spread of fire from wild vegetation to ornamental vegetation and from vegetation to buildings. Their three-year project, “Development of Engineering Tools for Exposure Analysis at the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI)”, will result in tools that could help communities protect buildings and create fireproof roads.
The researchers’ work for CAL FIRE will address the critical issue of ongoing wildfire threats in California, where fires have scorched millions of acres, destroyed thousands of homes and claimed more than 100 lives in recent years. In 2021, more than 8,000 fires have burned more than 2.5 million acres across the state.
“The fire protection engineering community has developed tools to design structures that can withstand fire, but disastrous wildfires in California and elsewhere have demonstrated that communities remain vulnerable to destruction,” Simeoni said. , a professor in WPI’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering.
Simeoni will be the principal investigator (PI) of the project and will collaborate with co-PI Urban, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at WPI. They will simulate fires under controlled conditions in laboratory experiments with vegetation found in California during dry summer conditions, then use data from the experiments to develop computer models that predict how fire spreads between distinct fuel sources. and specific.
“New tools are needed to determine the defensible space needed around homes and fire breaks so engineers can develop strategies to reduce the exposure of communities and structures to wildfires,” Urban said.
Simeoni is a former firefighter who has studied the impact of wind on wildfires and how burning patterns across landscapes can indicate the origin of wildfires. It recently received $399,999 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop technology to simulate wildfires near communities, reconstruct how wildfires burn, and determine hazards to communities by forest fires.
Urban focuses his research on the impact of ember showers and intermittent winds on the spread of wildfires. The National Science Foundation awarded him $200,000 to determine the impact of wind gusts on the spread of wildfires and $399,095 for experiments aboard the International Space Station to understand the impact of fire processes. dynamics on the spread of forest fires.
“Fire has been and always will be a factor in the way we live,” Simeoni said. “It is essential that researchers think about what we can do to prepare for the next fire season and what we can do over the next five or 10 years to ensure that we develop a way to coexist with the fire.”
“Developing Engineering Tools for WUI Exposure Analysis” is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars into the work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment. — especially in disadvantaged communities. The cap and trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, mass transit, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling, and more. At least 35% of these investments are located within and benefit residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities and low-income households throughout California. For more information, visit the California Climate Investments website at https://www.caclimateinvestments.ca.gov.